Abstract Traditionally we have designed agricultural production systems which depend on high levels of fossil fuel derived inputs which must be purchased or otherwise obtained off the farm. To make cropping systems more sustainable into the future, it is desirable to shift from a reliance on external resources to systems based on internal farm-derived, renewable resources. These alternatives rely heavily on new information about how biological systems operate and interact with the environment. Several examples are provided to show how information-intensive cropping systems can be structured to allow farmers to substitute use of internal resources for more expensive external production inputs. Carefully chosen maize or sorghum hybrids, rotation of maize with soybeans, weed control through rotations, conservation tillage, strip cropping, and pest control options illustrate some components of these systems. Cropping systems based on progressive biological sequencing and integrative farm structuring are described as broader examples of how components fit together. Building systems on renewable, farm-derived resources can lead to a more sustainable and ecologically sound agriculture.