Agroecology: The Science of Sustainable Agriculture

Agroecology: The Science of Sustainable Agriculture

Agroecology: The Science of Sustainable Agriculture

Agroecology: The Science of Sustainable Agriculture

Synopsis

This new edition builds on the explosion of research on sustainable agriculture since the late 1980s. By separating myth from reality, Miguel Altieri extracts the key principles of sustainable agriculture and expounds on management systems that "really work." Providing case studies of sustainable rural development in developing countries, he goes beyond a mere description of practices to include data that reveal the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of alternative projects. Each chapter of Agroecology has been enriched and updated with the latest research results from around the world. New emphasis has been placed on such issues as the ecological economics of agriculture, policy changes needed for promoting sustainable agriculture, rural development in the Third World, the role of biodiversity in agriculture, and new research methodologies.

Excerpt

Since the publication of the first edition of this book in 1987, there has been an explosive worldwide interest in searching for more sustainable ways of producing food. Hundreds of research projects and technological development attempts have taken place, and many lessons have been learned. However, much of the emphasis is still highly technological, focusing on an input substitution approach in order to replace costly and degrading agrochernical and high-input technologies for more environmentally sound, low-external input technologies. There still prevails a narrow view that specific causes affect productivity, and, overcoming this limiting factor via alternative technologies continues to be the main goal. This view has diverted agriculturalists from an appreciation of the context and complexity of agroecological processes.

In the search to reinstate a more ecological rationale into agricultural production, scientists and developers have disregarded a key point in the development of a more self-sufficient and sustaining agriculture: a deep understanding of the nature of agroecosystems and the principles by which they function. Based on new research results and practical findings, I attempt in this edition to re-emphasize the importance of agroecology as the discipline that provides the basic ecological principles for how to study, design, and manage agroecosystems that are both productive and natural resource conserving, and are also culturally sensitive, socially just, and economically viable.

Agroecology goes beyond a one-dimensional view of agroecosystems -- their genetics, agronomy, edaphology -- to embrace an understanding of ecological and social levels of coevolution, structure, and function. Agroecology encourages researchers to tap into farmers' knowledge and skills and to identify the unlimited potential of assembling biodiversity to create beneficial synergisms that provide agroecosystems with the ability to remain or return to an innate state of natural stability. Sustainable yield in the agroecosystem derives from the proper balance of crops, soils, nutrients, sunlight, moisture, and other coexisting organisms. The agroecosystem is productive and healthy when these balanced and rich growing conditions . . .

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