THE SCIENCE OF AGROECOLOGY written by Les Kishler
Steve Gliesmann UC Santa Cruz agroecologist, William Lidicker UC Berkeley ecologist emeritus, Jim
Nelson Alan Chadwick memorial lecturer UC Santa Cruz
I. WHAT IS AGROECOLOGY?
II. THE HISTORY OF AGROECOLOGY.
III. WHY AGROECOLOGY IS IMPORTANT.
I. WHAT IS AGROECOLOGY?
Agroecology is the science of applying principles of the science
of ecology to agriculture and horticulture.
Organic gardening is centuries old and is based in real science...agroecology
is that science.
Inherent in agroecology is the principle of the ecosystem. Gardens and agricultural systems
are ecosystems...they can either be healthy or not healthy...the study of agroecology seeks to enhance the health of these
Additional principles of ecology that are important in agroecology are size of ecosystems and the
interconnected/complexity characteristics of food webs that promote ecosystem stability.
The energy pyramid
and ecosystem productivity are also important principles in the science of agroecology.
The concept of biodiversity
is important to agroecology . The sustainability of an agricultural and garden ecosystem is influenced by its biodiversity.
Agroecology is a multidisciplinary field that includes economics and social science as well as traditional science.
Harvard biologist EO Wilson refers to this interconnectedness of disciplines as consilience. The term agroecology itself
is a consilience of agriculture and ecology.
II. THE HISTORY OF AGROECOLOGY
The sixties and Rachel Carson brought the science of ecology out of the academic woodwork and into the mainstream
of social and political discourse.
Organic gardening had been around for centuries and indeed millennia.
Applying the scientific method in a conscious sense to organic gardening was given a boost by the University
of California at Santa Cruz when the science of ecology was brought together in consilient form with agriculture. An old
term…agroecology…was given renewed interest at this point.
The work of Alan Chadwick at the
University of California was instrumental at this time. Chadwick had brought to California from England the work of Rudolf
Steiner called biodynamics .
Today scientists Miguel Altieri at the University of California in Berkeley
and Steve Gliessman at UC Santa Cruz are doing work in the field of agroecology. Ecologist emeritus William Lidicker at UC
Berkeley is another interested scientist.
An international example of a scientist working today in the field
of agroecology is Christos Vasilikiotis who has done research in California and is now based in Greece.
III. WHY AGROECOLOGY IS IMPORTANT
Agroecology is important because it goes beyond short-term
goals and improves the long-term health and sustainability of agricultural systems. Therefore stewardship of the all important
base of the human food chain is enhanced.
An important feature of agroecology is its lack of dependency
on petrochemicals and oil in the cultivation of plants.
Agroecology also promotes more efficient and less
depleting uses of water and land than industrial agriculture. Soil ecosystems are better preserved.
principles of agroecology also add to the aesthetics and health of human environments.
The methods of agroecology
invite participation by nonprofessionals as well as professionals in ideas and activities that are cognitively and emotionally
rewarding to human beings.