Farming in the City: Researching Urban Agriculture

New Research Conducted on Urban Agriculture

Researchers Work to Make Urban Agriculture More Profitable and Productive

Most agricultural pursuits are carried out in rural areas, largely feeding people living in urban and suburban areas. But some people are farming in cities, as urban agriculture practitioners and enthusiasts certainly know. Whether you’re knew to the concept or urban agriculture or you’ve been farming in the city for some time, read on! A new project by Sam Wortman, assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, may be of interest to you. Also, learn more about urban agriculture right here at beginningfarmers.org on our “Urban Agriculture” page. This is a one-stop-shop for information about urban agriculture. Excerpt (from ScienceDaily): As the concept of local food and urban gardening gains popularity, urban agriculture, with its benefits and obstacles, is coming to many cities. The issues surrounding food production in urban areas are outlined in a paper recently published by Wortman and Sarah Taylor Lovell in the September-October issue of Journal of Environmental Quality. The benefits of urban agriculture are many. Urban gardens are often built on previously unused lots, increasing the beauty and value of the neighborhood. They provide recreation opportunities and a social network for the gardeners involved. Urban food production also means that healthy, fresh produce is readily available to city dwellers. In light of the benefits, urban gardens are popping up across the nation. But the challenges that organizers and growers face must be understood and addressed if urban gardens are to become widespread and even profitable. Several obstacles face planners and growers including soil contaminants, water availability, and changes in climate and atmospheric conditions.  Wortman and his colleagues have a two-fold goal for the project. First, they want to identify crops that grow well in any given urban environment. It may then be possible to develop new crops that are adapted to urban gardens and customized for the area.

Also, urban conditions with higher temperatures, ozone, and carbon dioxide are similar to the changes expected elsewhere with climate change. Urban gardens, then, provide a natural laboratory for studying how these climatic and atmospheric changes will affect plants and crop yields in the future.  "We're looking at it from a very practical perspective of providing recommendations for urban farmers, but it also has an angle of how these different crops respond to altered environments," says Wortman. Looking ahead, Wortman and his colleagues hope to further the development of urban agriculture by optimizing the ways in which crops and soils are managed in urban areas. Finding more efficient ways to produce food in cities will help control costs. Research to increase both the productivity and profitability of urban farming is necessary if fresh produce is to be available not just in high-end restaurants but to anyone looking for local food options.

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