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AGR 2050 (2)

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AGR 2050
Clarence J Swanton

CLEMENTS AND SHRETHAARTICLE: “New Dimensions in Agroecology for Developing a Biologi- cal Approach to Crop Production.” Summary: - Current crop production approaches fail to account for biological complexities of agro-ecosystems - the cant feed world without jeopardizing sustainability of life support systems. -Agroecology deals with applications of ecological principles in agroecosystems and represents a logical response to shortcomings of conventional agriculture - key strategy: compare to natural ecosystems systematically and attempt to integrate knowledge of natural ecosys- tems into ag. practice - 10 dimesions of agroecology Introduction: - traditional “profit maximization approach” to agriculture led to ecological and ethical shortcomings - there is need to access biological bases of sustainability - agroecology addresses agriculture and food production beyond the simple application of new technology in the field - agriculture is a form of applied ecology so the principles of ecology must be applied to better un- derstand it - Francis definition of agroecosystems: “ecology of food systems” - reflects importance of ecology and systems thinking - how ecological principles can be used to explain/improve on-farm production as well as entire food-producing enterprise (including global nutrient cycling) - Key Strategy: carefully/systematically compare ‘agroecosystems’and “natural ecosystems” and attempt to inte- grate knowledge of natural ecosystems into agricultural practice - not a recipe -consists of several dimensions New Dimensions: Expanding the Frontiers ofAgriculture Science WHAT IS WRONG: - 20th century, new paradigm - ability to increase crop yields through genetic improvements and improved agro- nomic techniques - based on small plot trials - reductionist approach to agriculture - ignores the fact that agriculture operates as a system - consequences are: - environmental degredation (grounwater pollution, loss of soil/soil nutrients, deleterious effects of pesticies on non target organisms) - cultural decline (dissearance of family farms, loss of vitality of farming communities - Changes in last 100 years: - new agricultural technology and industrial paradigm are entrenched in the system - and integral to provid- ing more for to the burgeoning population of the world (than would be possible using 19th century tech- nology - technology driven by cause and effect - single factor mind set - ignores complexity, and potentials of whole system/ broader emergent properties - advancement in our understanding of the way the world works - its ecology SOLUTION: - frontiers of agriculture can be expanded in two ways: 1) taking less fragmented approach to development and application of agricultural technology 2) incorporating principles of biology and ecology more explicitly within agriculture - Agroecology - coming back to the values more closely in tune with nature - describes the ideal marriage between agriculture and ecology Dimension 1:ANew Philosophy ofAgriculture - Before it economic sustainability was preeminent - Inputs and technology = move away from natural - crop seen as industrial product - improved production is achieve by refining a narrow and finite set of practices - problem of agriculture” - the overall approach taken to address issues in agriculture and consequences - require different framework from improving conventional agriculture both scientifically and philosphically - a paradigm shift - new philosophy goals: - integrate biological and cultural knowledge to the greatest extent possible - embrace wider suite of criteria for evaluating success - move from symptom focus to vision of agroecosystem design - methodological difficulties - Sustainability should involve economic, social and environmental - strong interdependence among these factors Dimension 2: Systems Thinking - cannot understand system by studying various parts, because system takes on properties that would not be predict- ed based based on studies of individual components - individual farm exists within regional, national and international food systems - holistic view; broad range of biotic and human factors - factors such as food security, social equity, quality of life - extensive and multidisciplinary there for methodological difficulties given current institutions and practices - how broadly should we define system? - social, political, physical, biological and economic factors - incorporate external factors (in form of social, political, regulatory) along with farm size, labour, capital, debt and land - developing countries - simple systems - ecological sustainable Dimension 3: Local Adaptation - monolithic agriculture techniques or policies over broad geographic area can have severe unintended conse- quences - various ag. crops and products adapted successfully to new areas across bioregions and cultures - process accompanies by delivery of very specialized and often input-intensive agronomic techniques - not possible or desirable to “turn back the clock” - BUT must recognize uniqueness of plance and balance of potential benefits of globalization of agriculture with detrimental effects on local systems - local knowlege is valuable, should not ignor - can be incorporated into design of agroecosystems suited for local ecosystem Dimension 4: The Non-Crop Biota: - weeds play certain useful ecological roles within an agroecosystem - maintained below economic thresholds could be seen as providing a net benfit - vast majority of non-crop species in field are beneficial or neutral( include soil microbs, mycorrhizae, soil fauna, earthworms) - many organizes essential to balance
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