Crop Production

How does sustainable farming differ from industrial crop production?

Scroll down to see a side by side comparison of the two and learn the answers!

Planting Practices

Creating Biodiversity

Promoting biodiversity is a basic tenet of sustainable agriculture. Sustainable farmers rotate between a diversity of crops to promote healthy ecosystems and reduce chemical use. Many integrate livestock with crop production to reduce or eliminate the use of synthetic fertilizers.

Gregerly Zsolnai/



Industrial producers typically plant the same small number of crops on the same fields year after year, called monocropping. This type of growing practice reduces biodiversity, depletes the soil, makes crops susceptible to disease and increases reliance on synthetic fertilizers and hazardous pesticides.

Pest Control


Responsible Pest

Responsible Pest Management

Sustainable farmers minimize or avoid the use of hazardous pesticides by managing pests and weeds through careful crop selection, strategic planting, crop rotation, preservation of biodiversity, mulching, manual weeding and other non-chemical practices.

Spraying field @Dusan Kostic/Adobe



Industrial producers rely on hazardous pesticides to control weeds, fungi, insects and other pests. Pesticides degrade soil and water quality, kill pollinators and other beneficial organisms and pose a direct threat to the health of farmworkers, neighbors and consumers.

Fertilizer Use

Natural Fertilization

Sustainable farmers build healthy, fertile soil and provide nutrients to their crops from natural sources such as manure, cover crops and compost. This enables them to avoid the resource-intensive synthetic fertilizers used by industrial producers.

Tyler Olson/

Synthetic Fertilizers

Synthetic Fertilizers

Industrial crops are grown using synthetic fertilizers, which require large amounts of fossil fuels to produce. These fertilizers often wash into waterways, killing fish and causing toxic algal blooms.

GMO Technology


GMO Free


Sustainable farmers avoid genetically modified (GMO) crops, instead choosing seed varieties suitable to local growing conditions. Many also use traditional breeding practices that create hardier, drought-resistant crops.


Genetic Modification

Genetic Modification

Industrial producers often grow genetically modified (GMO) crops, which are paired with greater herbicide use, and force farmers to buy expensive fertilizers and pesticides from a handful of powerful seed companies.

Soil Health

J. Hegalson/

Soil Preservation

Soil Preservation

Sustainable farmers protect soil by rotating crops and avoiding pesticides and other soil pollutants. They prevent soil erosion through conservation tillage and build healthy soil through crop diversification and organic fertilization.

Erosion and Nutrient Depletion

The same crops are often grown on wide expanses of land year after year, leading to loss of soil nutrients. Leaving fields bare for part of the year leaves farms vulnerable to erosion that can quickly destroy fertile farmland.