It is my opinion, as an agronomist and scientist, that research
programs leading to better understanding of the interactions among
physical/biological/chemical components of agricultural systems are
vital to getting to sustainable agriculture in the future, as we
don't know enough about these interactions. Much past research was
done within disciplines so that factors or processes were looked at
in isolation from most other components of a crop system. Example
research questions would be "how many grams/hectare of Monitor are
needed to kill 99.9% of Colorado potato beetle in a potato field
during a humid period in July in Idaho" or "how does grain yield of
Pioneer 3370 hybrid corn change with increasing N application on a
silt loam in Eastern Nebraska with irrigation".
Rather we need more emphasis on "Systems Research" where we ask how
a process of interest will respond to many aspects of the environment.
Examples are 1) What are the factors controlling transformation of
nitrogen in the soil between its various mineral (NH4+, NO3-) and
organic forms, how does carbon:nitrogen ratio of soil organic material
affect such transformations, how is that modulated by soil moisture/
temperature/microbe population. Then how can we manage crops, crop
residues, tillage operations, and water and chemical applications so
that soluable nitrogen (NO3-) is not present in high concentrations
when water is moving down through the soil.
2) Study the life cycle of an insect, identify critical points and
what management actions can be done at those points to control/reduce
its effects. I.e. introduce predator insects, don't kill predators
by spraying when they are vulnerable, maintain habitat for predators
in or around crop fields, introduce diseases and parasites, etc. An
excellent understanding of the life cycles of several insect species
is needed to develop these control measures so that we know that
they are effective and economical and can be tailored to a wide range
of environmental situations.
Currently these kinds of systems are developed by individual farmers
by inefficient trial and error methods, with unlucky operators going
bankrupt when their trials fail badly.
Anyway if you want to express yourselves about agricultural research
and sustainable agriculture, this is a critical time to telephone,
write, or fax your House and Senate representatives.
Does anyone know where to find such address/phone/email information
on the Internet?
Apologies for the length, especially to those outside the US,
Tom Hodges, Cropping Systems Modeler
USDA-ARS email: email@example.com
Rt. 2, Box 2953-A voice: 509-786-9207
Prosser, WA 99350 USA Fax: 509-786-9370
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If this represents anything, it is only my opinion.