I suspect one of the reasons there is a lot of concern over the future of food and agriculture is that most people are scarcely aware of the great research on these topics going on at universities all across the country. In Unnaturally Delicious, I tell the story of Alexander Magruder, the first professor of agriculture at what is now Oklahoma State University, who started a scientific experiment on sustainability in 1892 that continues to this day (note: Oklahoma didn't even become a state until 1907). Here are a couple of old images I obtained from Bill Raun who oversees the research today.
So, what did Magruder do?
You'll have to read the book to get the whole fascinating story of Magruder and the research plots. Despite a number of significant hurdles, amazingly the research is today still being conducted on the same soil Magruder plowed up in the late 1890s, and agronomists at Oklahoma State are still comparing yields of the original "check" plot to new treatments that have been added over the years to study the effects of adding manure or various "synthetic" fertilizers. Here's a modern-day photo of the plot, which as you can see, is now a federal historic landmark.
What have the researchers found? Here's a slice: