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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Reviews and Analyses

Environmental Challenges Threatening the Growth of Urban Agriculture in the United States


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 42 No. 5, p. 1283-1294
    Received: Jan 30, 2013
    Published: June 25, 2014

    * Corresponding author(s): swortman@illinois.edu
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  1. Sam E. Wortman *a and
  2. Sarah Taylor Lovella
  1. a Dep. of Crop Sciences, Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801


Urban agriculture, though often difficult to define, is an emerging sector of local food economies in the United States. Although urban and agricultural landscapes are often integrated in countries around the world, the establishment of mid- to large-scale food production in the U.S. urban ecosystem is a relatively new development. Many of the urban agricultural projects in the United States have emerged from social movements and nonprofit organizations focused on urban renewal, education, job training, community development, and sustainability initiatives. Although these social initiatives have traction, critical knowledge gaps exist regarding the science of food production in urban ecosystems. Developing a science-based approach to urban agriculture is essential to the economic and environmental sustainability of the movement. This paper reviews abiotic environmental factors influencing urban cropping systems, including soil contamination and remediation; atmospheric pollutants and altered climatic conditions; and water management, sources, and safety. This review paper seeks to characterize the limited state of the science on urban agricultural systems and identify future research questions most relevant to urban farmers, land-use planners, and environmental consultants.

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Copyright © 2013. Copyright © by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, Inc.