About: Agroecology is a research topic. Over the lifetime, 2252 publications have been published within this topic receiving 63257 citations. The topic is also known as: agricultural ecology & agro-ecology.
Papers published on a yearly basis
TL;DR: The role of biodiversity in securing crop protection and soil fertility is explored in detail in this paper, where various options of agroecosystem management and design that enhance functional biodiversity in crop fields are described.
Abstract: Increasingly research suggests that the level of internal regulation of function in agroecosystems is largely dependent on the level of plant and animal biodiversity present. In agroecosystems, biodiversity performs a variety of ecological services beyond the production of food, including recycling of nutrients, regulation of microclimate and local hydrological processes, suppression of undesirable organisms and detoxification of noxious chemicals. In this paper the role of biodiversity in securing crop protection and soil fertility is explored in detail. It is argued that because biodiversity mediated renewal processes and ecological services are largely biological, their persistence depends upon the maintenance of biological integrity and diversity in agroecosystems. Various options of agroecosystem management and design that enhance functional biodiversity in crop fields are described. ©1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
TL;DR: In this article, the authors assess the impacts on biodiversity of organic farming, relative to conventional agriculture, through a review of comparative studies of the two systems, in order to determine whether it can deliver on the biodiversity benefits its proponents claim.
Abstract: The intensification and expansion of modern agriculture is amongst the greatest current threats to worldwide biodiversity. Over the last quarter of the 20th century, dramatic declines in both range and abundance of many species associated with farmland have been reported in Europe, leading to growing concern over the sustainability of current intensive farming practices. Purportedly ‘sustainable’ farming systems such as organic farming are now seen by many as a potential solution to this continued loss of biodiversity and receive substantial support in the form of subsidy payments through EU and national government legislation. This paper assesses the impacts on biodiversity of organic farming, relative to conventional agriculture, through a review of comparative studies of the two systems, in order to determine whether it can deliver on the biodiversity benefits its proponents claim. It identifies a wide range of taxa, including birds and mammals, invertebrates and arable flora, that benefit from organic management through increases in abundance and/or species richness. It also highlights three broad management practices (prohibition/reduced use of chemical pesticides and inorganic fertilisers; sympathetic management of non-cropped habitats; and preservation of mixed farming) that are largely intrinsic (but not exclusive) to organic farming, and that are particularly beneficial for farmland wildlife. However, the review also draws attention to four key issues: (1) It remains unclear whether a ‘holistic’ whole-farm approach (i.e. organic) provides greater benefits to biodiversity than carefully targeted prescriptions applied to relatively small areas of cropped and/or non-cropped habitats within conventional agriculture (i.e. agri-environment schemes); (2) Many comparative studies encounter methodological problems, limiting their ability to draw quantitative conclusions; (3) Our knowledge of the impacts of organic farming in pastoral and upland agriculture is limited; (4) There remains a pressing need for longitudinal, system-level studies in order to address these issues and to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of the impacts of organic farming, before a full appraisal of its potential role in biodiversity conservation in agroecosystems can be made.
TL;DR: In this article, the authors argue that the true value of functional biodiversity on the farm is often inadequately acknowledged or understood, while conventional intensification tends to disrupt beneficial functions of biodiversity.
Abstract: Under the current scenario of rapid human population increase, achieving efficient and productive agricultural land use while conserving biodiversity is a global challenge. There is an ongoing debate whether land for nature and for production should be segregated (land sparing) or integrated on the same land (land sharing, wildlife-friendly farming). While recent studies argue for agricultural intensification in a land sparing approach, we suggest here that it fails to account for real-world complexity. We argue that agriculture practiced under smallholder farmer-dominated landscapes and not large-scale farming, is currently the backbone of global food security in the developing world. Furthermore, contemporary food usage is inefficient with one third wasted and a further third used inefficiently to feed livestock and that conventional intensification causes often overlooked environmental costs. A major argument for wildlife friendly farming and agroecological intensification is that crucial ecosystem services are provided by “planned” and “associated” biodiversity, whereas the land sparing concept implies that biodiversity in agroecosystems is functionally negligible. However, loss of biological control can result in dramatic increases of pest densities, pollinator services affect a third of global human food supply, and inappropriate agricultural management can lead to environmental degradation. Hence, the true value of functional biodiversity on the farm is often inadequately acknowledged or understood, while conventional intensification tends to disrupt beneficial functions of biodiversity. In conclusion, linking agricultural intensification with biodiversity conservation and hunger reduction requires well-informed regional and targeted solutions, something which the land sparing vs sharing debate has failed to achieve so far.
TL;DR: It is concluded that major scientific breakthroughs must occur in basic plant physiology, ecophysiology, agroecology, and soil science to achieve the ecological intensification that is needed to meet the expected increase in food demand.
Abstract: Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), rice (Oryza sativa L.), and maize (Zea mays L.) provide about two-thirds of all energy in human diets, and four major cropping systems in which these cereals are grown represent the foundation of human food supply. Yield per unit time and land has increased markedly during the past 30 years in these systems, a result of intensified crop management involving improved germplasm, greater inputs of fertilizer, production of two or more crops per year on the same piece of land, and irrigation. Meeting future food demand while minimizing expansion of cultivated area primarily will depend on continued intensification of these same four systems. The manner in which further intensification is achieved, however, will differ markedly from the past because the exploitable gap between average farm yields and genetic yield potential is closing. At present, the rate of increase in yield potential is much less than the expected increase in demand. Hence, average farm yields must reach 70-80% of the yield potential ceiling within 30 years in each of these major cereal systems. Achieving consistent production at these high levels without causing environmental damage requires improvements in soil quality and precise management of all production factors in time and space. The scope of the scientific challenge related to these objectives is discussed. It is concluded that major scientific breakthroughs must occur in basic plant physiology, ecophysiology, agroecology, and soil science to achieve the ecological intensification that is needed to meet the expected increase in food demand.
TL;DR: Agricultural sustainability suggests a focus on both genotype improvements through the full range of modern biological approaches and improved understanding of the benefits of ecological and agronomic management, manipulation and redesign.
Abstract: Concerns about sustainability in agricultural systems centre on the need to develop technologies and practices that do not have adverse effects on environmental goods and services, are accessible to and effective for farmers, and lead to improvements in food productivity. Despite great progress in agricultural productivity in the past half-century, with crop and livestock productivity strongly driven by increased use of fertilizers, irrigation water, agricultural machinery, pesticides and land, it would be over-optimistic to assume that these relationships will remain linear in the future. New approaches are needed that will integrate biological and ecological processes into food production, minimize the use of those non-renewable inputs that cause harm to the environment or to the health of farmers and consumers, make productive use of the knowledge and skills of farmers, so substituting human capital for costly external inputs, and make productive use of people's collective capacities to work together to solve common agricultural and natural resource problems, such as for pest, watershed, irrigation, forest and credit management. These principles help to build important capital assets for agricultural systems: natural; social; human; physical; and financial capital. Improving natural capital is a central aim, and dividends can come from making the best use of the genotypes of crops and animals and the ecological conditions under which they are grown or raised. Agricultural sustainability suggests a focus on both genotype improvements through the full range of modern biological approaches and improved understanding of the benefits of ecological and agronomic management, manipulation and redesign. The ecological management of agroecosystems that addresses energy flows, nutrient cycling, population-regulating mechanisms and system resilience can lead to the redesign of agriculture at a landscape scale. Sustainable agriculture outcomes can be positive for food productivity, reduced pesticide use and carbon balances. Significant challenges, however, remain to develop national and international policies to support the wider emergence of more sustainable forms of agricultural production across both industrialized and developing countries.
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