Sustainable [suh-stey-nuh-buh l] – we’ve all heard it. According to Mr. Webster, it’s defined as:

1:  capable of being sustained

2 a :  of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged <sustainable techniques> <sustainable agriculture>     

   b :  of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods <sustainable society>

The buzzword has been making its rounds through the agriculture industry for quite some time now, taking on new meanings and interpretations by the day. According to a recent global study, consumers and farmers don’t quite see eye to eye when it comes to their take on the definition regarding agricultural practices.

“Consumers define sustainability in agriculture with a relatively narrow view, describing it as ‘environmentally friendly’ (22%) or the ‘ability to produce sufficient food to feed the population’ (18%). Globally, consumers listed one or two points when questioned about the meaning of sustainable agriculture,” says BASF Farm Perspectives researchers.

On the flip side, farmers dug a little deeper into the meaning with 40% relating it to “soil protection,” 27% on “land use,” another 27% on “water use,” 25% on “biodiversity protection,” and 25% even going as far to relating it to “fair farm wages.”

This isn’t the only the only opinion the two groups contrast in. According to BASF, when it comes to whether or not crop protection was used properly, 82% of farmers felt it was, while a whopping 63 percent of consumers disagreed. Amongst this, 81% of consumers claim to “care about sustainability in agriculture.”

"These results help us to better understand the different perceptions regarding sustainable agriculture," said Dr. Kristina Winzen, Vice President of Global Communications & Public Government Affairs for BASF's Crop Protection division. "Growers and consumers do not understand sustainability in the same way and that makes it quite challenging for farmers to fulfill the requirements from society."

When it comes to the future of agriculture, farmers are predicting some major changes.

“Farmers believe the following trends will change agriculture in the next five years: ‘small farmers will disappear’ (45%), ‘tougher regulations’ (23%), ‘improvements in technology’ (22%), ‘water shortage’ (21%) and ‘more sustainable agriculture’ (19%),” says BASF.

According to BASF, farmers and consumers need to make efforts to communicate with each other to better.

"As a company that supports modern, sustainable agriculture, it is also our responsibility to promote and recognize the essential role farmers have in our lives and well-being," concludes Winzen.

What does sustainable agriculture mean to you? Leave your definition in the comment section below.