When we consider the potential improvements sustainable agriculture may have on environmental quality, the first items which may come to mind are reductions in pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. However, some of the most significant environmental degradation from agriculture can occur through soil loss, nutrient loss into ground and surface water, conversion of land to agriculture use and associated loss of vegetative diversity and wildlife habitat, as well as greenhouse gas emissions. These resources highlight how sustainable agriculture can address environmental degradation.


Koohafkan, P., Altieri, M.A. and Gimenez, E.H., (2012). Green agriculture: foundations for biodiverse, resilient and productive agricultural systems. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 10(1), pp.61-75. https://doi.org/10.1080/14735903.2011.610206 

  • This article outlines a set of unifying principles and provides a series of questions and criteria through which to assess the sustainability of agricultural technologies and practices. The framework and assessments are intended to have relevance in any agroecological and social context, and are intentional in considering elements of environmental impact (e.g. resource use efficiency, energy, ecosystem degradation, use of inputs from outside the local production system, etc.).


Lemaire, G., Franzluebbers, A., de Faccio Carvalho, P.C. and Dedieu, B., (2014). Integrated crop–livestock systems: Strategies to achieve synergy between agricultural production and environmental quality. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 190, pp.4-8.


  • This article discusses the ways animal and plant systems act in complementary ways to cycle carbon and nitrogen through the atmosphere and hydrosphere. The authors outline how close integration and diversification of plant and animal systems, at field scales to regional or even national scales, can reduce adverse environmental effects and optimize ecosystems services.


Ramankutty, N., Mehrabi, Z., Waha, K., Jarvis, L., Kremen, C., Herrero, M. and Rieseberg, L.H., (2018). Trends in global agricultural land use: implications for environmental health and food security. Annual review of plant biology, 69, pp.789-815. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-arplant-042817-040256

  • This is an extensive article that gives a historical perspective of global agricultural development since 1700, discussing its impact on the environment and human nutrition. The authors then discuss the issues involved in increasing food production for growing populations while minimizing environmental impact. 


Sayer, J. and Cassman, K.G., (2013). Agricultural innovation to protect the environment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(21), pp.8345-8348. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1208054110 

  • This is an introductory article for a special feature issue of the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences. This issue of the journal highlights agricultural innovations to protect the environment.


The following institutions and organizations range in their involvement within agricultural sustainability; from primary research, to extension and consulting, to policy and advocacy. This list is not exhaustive, but is representative of the range of entities involved in the space across the country and the globe, and the resources they provide. Most are involved in or give consideration to all aspects of sustainability, but some have particular emphasis on sustainability as it relates to environment impacts.

  • UC Davis - Agricultural Sustainability Institute https://asi.ucdavis.edu/ - The purpose of the institute is to foster integrative research, education, communication, and early action on big, emerging issues. Particularly, the institute’s Russell Ranch conducts research on soil health, water and nutrient use. https://asi.ucdavis.edu/programs/rr Primary role - Research and Education

  • UC Davis - Agriculture & Natural Resources - Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) - Areas of research include energy and climate footprinting to identify "hotspots" in food production and evaluate impacts of new practices and technologies. SAREP also manages the Solution Center for Nutrient Management and The California Nitrogen Assessment.  https://sarep.ucdavis.edu/ Primary role - Research and Education

  • Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers (GCIAR) - Water, Land, and Ecosystems (WLE) - The mission of WLE is to make agri-food systems environmentally and socially sustainable by taking scientific findings from across disciplines and applying this knowledge in order to effect large scale changes in how agricultural interventions and investments are made. Their specific area of focus is in restoring degraded landscapes, as well as land and water solutions. https://wle.cgiar.org/ Primary role - Research and advocacy

  • Clemson University - Sustainable Agriculture Program - This program offers sustainable agriculture training and outreach services with support from Clemson Extension and the USDA Southern region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) programs. https://www.clemson.edu/cafls/research/sustainableag/index.html Primary role - Research and education

  • University of Florida - Food Systems Institute - The institute works to develop transformative and sustainable research-based solutions that enhance nutrition, health, livelihoods, and the environment globally through improved food systems. https://foodsystems.ifas.ufl.edu/ Primary role - Research and education

  • Iowa State University - The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture https://www.leopold.iastate.edu/ - The Leopold Center exists to identify and develop new ways to farm profitably while conserving natural resources as well as reducing negative environmental and social impacts. Additionally, ISU leads the The Iowa Nutrient Research Center https://www.cals.iastate.edu/inrc/ in partnership with the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa, pursuing science-based approaches to evaluation of current and emerging nutrient management practices. Primary role - Research, education, and funding

  • Practical Farmers of Iowa - This non-profit works with farmers, networking, and equipping them to build resilient farms and communities. https://practicalfarmers.org/ Primary role - Research and education

  • Kansas State University - KS Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops (KCSAAC) - Supporting small family-owned farms in Kansas through research, education and outreach focused on production, storage, processing, and marketing technologies that will boost small farm profitability, protect natural resources, and enhance rural communities. http://kansassustainableag.org/ Primary role - Research, education, and advocacy

  • The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture  - Developing sustainable food and farming systems for Oklahomans by bringing new ideas and practices to OK and demonstrating the practical dimensions of sustainable agriculture with horticulture, livestock and conservation projects. https://kerrcenter.com/ Primary role - Education and advocacy

  • The Land Institute - Based in Kansas, working to displace the industrial, disruptive system of agriculture. The goal of The Land Institute is to develop an agricultural system that can produce ample food, reduce or eliminate impacts from the disruptions and dependencies of industrial agriculture, and inform cultural change through education. https://landinstitute.org/ Primary role - Research and education

  • Michigan State University - Center for Regional Food Systems - Developing regionally integrated, sustainable food systems through applied research, education, and outreach for local, state, national, and global spheres. https://www.canr.msu.edu/foodsystems/index Primary role - Research, education, and advocacy

  • Michael Fields Agricultural Institute  -  Based in Wisconsin, sustainable agriculture research with a focus on fostering the next generation of sustainable agriculture proponents. https://michaelfields.org/ Primary role - Research, education, and policy

  • University of Minnesota - Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA) https://www.misa.umn.edu/ - Bringing together the diverse interests of the ag community in a cooperative effort to develop and promote sustainable agriculture in Minnesota and beyond. Primary role - Advocacy and Education

  • National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) - Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA) Sustainable Agriculture Program - Providing high-value information and technical assistance to farmers, ranchers, extension agents, educators, and others. https://attra.ncat.org/ Primary role - Education

  • NC State University - Center for Environmental Farming Systems - research, extension, and education in sustainable agriculture and community-based food systems. https://cefs.ncsu.edu/ Primary role - Research and education

  • Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society (NPSAS) - A nonprofit, member-based organization promoting sustainable food systems through education and research. https://www.npsas.org/ Primary role - Research and education

  • The Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society (MESAS) - Demonstration and consultation with farmers on how best practices in sustainable agriculture benefit them, as well as policy and infrastructure advocacy. https://mesas.org/ Primary role - Education and advocacy

  • Virginia Tech - Catawba Sustainability Center - Advancing environmental stewardship and community engagement to provide a learning environment for the research, teaching, and demonstration of sustainable practices in agriculture, forestry, and land management. https://www.vtrc.vt.edu/catawba.html Primary role - Research and education   

  • Washington State University - Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR) http://csanr.wsu.edu/ - Sustaining Agricultural Production, Food Systems Innovation, and Agriculture in the Environment. Specific programs addressing the environment include Climate Friendly Farming, Soil Health Initiative, Resource Recovery http://csanr.wsu.edu/program-areas/ Primary role - Research and education   

  • University of Wisconsin-Madison - The Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) http://www.cias.wisc.edu/ - The Center works to build UW sustainable agriculture research programs that respond to farmer and citizen needs and involve them in setting research agendas. Specific programs addressing the environment include Soils, and Climate and Energy. Primary role - Research and education

  • USDA and University of Maryland https://www.sare.org/ - Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) - The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program is a decentralized competitive grants and education program operating in every state and island protectorate. Funded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture, the program is run by four regions (North Central, Northeast, South and West) hosted by land grant institutions. SARE Outreach provides communication and technical support at the national level. Primary role - Research and education   

  • USDA - National Agricultural Library - Alternative Farming Systems Information Center (AFSIC) https://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic - A national repository for resources about sustainable food systems and practices in support of USDA's effort to ensure a sustainable future for agriculture and farmers worldwide. Primary role - Information/Education database

  • USDA - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) - Sustainable Agriculture Program https://nifa.usda.gov/program/sustainable-agriculture-program - NIFA promotes sustainable agriculture through national program leadership and funding for research and extension. It offers competitive grants programs and a professional development program, and it collaborates with other federal agencies through the USDA Sustainable Development Council. Primary role - Information/Education database