Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Urban agriculture: The potential and challenges of producing food in cities

18.09.2013
In many cities around the world, patrons of high-end restaurants want quality food that is flavorful and fresh. To satisfy their guests, chefs are looking closer and closer to home – to locally grown produce from neighboring farms or even from their own, restaurant-owned gardens.

"You can't find fresher food anywhere," says Sam Wortman, assistant professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Chefs are literally picking produce the same day they're cooking it in the restaurants."

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.

Several contaminants can be found in urban soils, and lead is the most prevalent. While there is concern about plants taking up lead from soils, research suggests that they actually take up very little. "Even in roots, there is still a relatively small amount of lead compared to, for example, what we're exposed to from drinking water," says Wortman.

Direct ingestion of soil containing lead is a bigger threat than plant uptake. Soils can be directly ingested when children play in and eat soil, soil adheres to crops after they're harvested, or soil particles blow in the air. Practices such as washing food well before eating and covering soils with mulch can help decrease these risks.

Finding reliable and safe water sources can be difficult for urban farmers. Technologies such as drip irrigation that precisely deliver water where and when it's needed can help conserve water. Reusing rainwater and wastewater can provide additional water, but those sources must be monitored for contaminants, and perhaps treated.

Changes in atmospheric and climate conditions in cities compared to rural areas can also be obstacles for urban growers. For example, temperatures and vapor pressure deficits (the difference between saturated and actual vapor pressure at a specific temperature) are often higher in cities. Extreme temperatures during the day and higher nighttime temperatures can inhibit photosynthesis in plants and decrease yields. Likewise, when vapor pressure deficits are higher, plants have to use more water creating moisture stress and reducing photosynthesis.

To better understand the effects of varying climates and atmospheric states on food production, Wortman and his colleagues have a project underway. They are looking at six sites on a gradient from downtown Chicago to 40 miles west of the city. The sites all have the same, ideal soil conditions allowing the researchers to take soil factors out of the equation.

"We are trying to isolate the effects of the atmosphere," explains Wortman. "We are monitoring concentrations of carbon dioxide, ozone, temperature, humidity, wind, and other factors across all of the sites."

The study is still ongoing, but Wortman says the preliminary results are exciting. They are finding that crop yields are highly variable at the different sites with some crops growing better closer to the city center and others producing higher yields in more rural areas. The effects of atmospheric conditions on crops appear to be important.

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.

The full article is available for no charge for 30 days following the date of this summary. View the abstract at http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.2134/jeq2013.01.0031.

The Journal of Environmental Quality is a peer-reviewed, international journal of environmental quality in natural and agricultural ecosystems published six times a year by the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA). The Journal of Environmental Quality covers various aspects of anthropogenic impacts on the environment, including terrestrial, atmospheric, and aquatic systems.

Sam Wortman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.agronomy.org/

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product
02.12.2016 | Purdue University

nachricht New findings about the deformed wing virus, a major factor in honey bee colony mortality
11.11.2016 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>