Finding one technological fix and scaling it up cover the entire planet: a surprisingly bad problem-solving strategy

Agronomy: əˈɡrɒnəmi/ noun. The science of soil management and crop production.

– Google

The withdrawal of the state as the primary funder of agricultural research; the opening of public debate around science and science policy; the rise of the environmental movement; and the revolutions in communications technology have all contributed to opening agronomy to public scrutiny and debate to a degree that would have been unimaginable only forty years ago.

These developments have created strong incentives for individuals and organisations establish and defend their special contributions. One time-honoured way to do this is to promote a particular technology.

It is when information provision spills over to single-minded promotion that the nature of debate and contestation changes. We can see the blinkered promotion and systematic “bigging-up” of individual agricultural technologies, and their real or imagined impacts, as a direct result of the uncritical acceptance of the language of “impact at scale”. The great irony is that at a time when agriculture is back on the policy agenda, this self-reinforcing dynamic masks the critical insight that successful and sustainable agriculture is, by its very nature, situated and specific. It may seem counter intuitive, but in agriculture, the only viable route to impact at scale is through the details, nuance and performance of situated farming practices and systems.

– Exerpted / simplified from Why it’s good to argue about agronomy by Jim Sumberg.