Yields increased by an average of 79 percent during the study, according to corresponding author Jules Pretty of the University of Essex in England. Working with colleagues in Thailand, China, Sri Lanka and Mexico, Pretty found nearly all of the farm projects increased their yields, and harvests of some crops like maize, potatoes and beans increased 100 percent.
Sustainable agriculture practices, such as conservation tillage and integrated pest control, also reduced pesticide use and increased carbon sequestration. In addition, sustainable farming practices require less water, an important factor given that predictions suggest by 2025 most developing countries will face physical or economic water shortages, Pretty says.
About 800 million people in the developing world are short of food and agriculturally driven environmental damage threatens to worsen the problem. "Although it is uncertain whether these approaches can meet future food needs, there are grounds for cautious optimism, particularly as poor farm households benefit more from the their adoption," Pretty says.