Your example, as many others, challenges the approaches in which quite
amount of people are thinking, and raises a significant question: What is
organic farming/sustainable agriculture/Eco-agriculture? What is differences
between these types of agricultures and conventional agriculture. Here, I
would like to express my personal openings to be discussed with my
colleagues like you.
(1) These type of agricultures should have firm academic foundation, which
is AGRO-ECOLOGY. More research work under financial supports is necessary
to develop a new branch of science like Agro-ecology. However, the supports
to the research of Agro-ecology is not as strong as others (Some one likes
to input more money to suport the research of pesticides or resistance
breeding than to Agro-ecology which has better way to control pests or
(2) These types of agricultures should have their own technique packages (
or system), which are agro-ecological engineering. We should design the
entire agro-ecosystems based on the principles of agro-ecology.
"Non-chemical" is not necessarily good to environmental. For example,
application of P and K to N-fixing plants in poor soils may be good to
maximize primary productivity, increase soil organic matter and nitrogen
nutrition. In that situation, we have to design an appropriate farming
system (including tillage, cropping or vegetation, fertility, weed and
water management systems) for the best interests of long-term benefits,
and sustainability in a poor agroecosystem have to be estabilished with
certain kinds of initial forces. Certain amount of additional input may
accelerate the estabilishment.
(3) Sustainablility is affected by many factors. Maintaining the
sustainability of ago-ecosystem may be not good enough to meet the challenge
of the global population growth. Upgrading the sustainablity is necessary.
Bio-fertilizer (which can fix nitrogen for plants) may be the one of
critical techniques for these types of agriculture. Other techniques are
urgently needed to upgrade these types of agricultures and push the
research of Agro-ecology.
Tiangen Wang, Ph.D.
1022 Bradfield Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
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At 02:44 PM 4/28/96 -0400, you wrote:
>In a message dated 96-04-23 16:53:19 EDT, you write:
>>For example, many campesino farmers
>>in Central America continue using traditional "organic", non-chemical
>>methods that are very ecologically destructive. Soil erosion and
>>degradation are markedly accelerated by "organic" practices like slash and
>>burn without adequate fallow periods, non-contour planting, severe
>>overgrazing, and deforestation.
>I hate to be a pill, but these techniques do not meet any organic standards
>in any country and would never be certified as such. It very much confuses
>the discussion on "organic-sustainable agriculture" to mislabel these
>techniques (results of the agriculture of poverty and social inequality) as
>"organic" and then claim that "organic" is not sustainable.