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Towards an ecological agriculture.
Andow, D*,1, 1 University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN
ABSTRACT- Management synchrony from planting to harvest is necessary for large-scale agriculture. Modern, input-intensive agriculture attempts to accomplish this by creating a uniform environment so that a single crop cultivar can be managed synchronously. Fertilizers are added not to optimize fertilizer use; pesticides are applied not to optimize pest control. Inputs are added to make the nutritional/pest status of most of the agricultural field similar enough so that synchronous management is efficient. The consequence is excessive environmental pollution. Ecological agriculture attempts to resolve this conflict in at least four disparate ways. A dominant approach is to seek to optimize input use by changing field-based management practices; this approach is probably doomed to long-term environmental failures. Another approach has been to advocate a smaller-scale agriculture that can take advantage of the natural environmental heterogeneity present in any agricultural habitat. While this has the potential to occupy significant portions of the agricultural landscape, it is not clear that it can be either a dominant or long-term solution. Another approach focuses on designing landscape structure to reduce environmental damage. This has been investigated by several European research groups, but is difficult to implement. A fourth, newer approach has been to identify medium to large-scale production systems that provide the necessary environmental and social amenities. In the US, this kind of ecological agriculture could be encouraged greatly by changing Federal farm subsidies to subsidize these environmental and social amenities directly.
KEY WORDS: agriculture