This overview draws attention to several reasons to encourage the design of new agronomic systems, shifting from conventional open or leaky systems to more closed, regenerative systems: Current systems cause overconsumption of environmental resources, contribute to climate change, rely on increasingly expensive fossil fuel, and result in environmental (e.g., groundwater) contamination. Moreover, the agronomic–urban interface is growing, as are markets for ecologically friendly produce, the need for low-input farming systems in low-income regions, and disenchantment with the subsidization of conventional agriculture. There is reasonable biological and economic evidence to support advocacy for a shift to regenerative systems. Such a shift presents challenges—for example, although higher labor input enhances community well-being and rural social capital, it is costly. It also offers opportunities—for example, to adapt technologies to monitor and minimize wastage. Shifting to semiclosed systems would be accelerated by (a) routine life cycle analysis and costing; (b) calculation of the full costs to society of farm inputs such as pesticides; (c) food labeling and standards that draw attention to energy and other inputs; (d) government grants supporting the transition to semiclosed systems; (e) changing priorities for agronomic research; and (f) greater engagement of urban societies in agriculture through recreation and philanthropy.
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Vol. 57 • No. 5