Agroecology: The Science of Sustainable Agriculture
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Agroecology goes beyond a one-dimensional view of agroecosystems -- their genetics, agronomy, edaphology -- to embrace an understanding of ecological and social levels of coevolution, structure, and function. Agroecology encourages researchers to tap into farmers' knowledge and skills and to identify the unlimited potential of assembling biodiversity to create beneficial synergisms that provide agroecosystems with the ability to remain or return to an innate state of natural stability. Sustainable yield in the agroecosystem derives from the proper balance of crops, soils, nutrients, sunlight, moisture, and other coexisting organisms. The agroecosystem is productive and healthy when these balanced and rich growing conditions prevail and when crop plants remain resilient to tolerate stress and adversity. Occasional disturbances can be overcome by a vigorous agroecosystem which is adaptable and diverse enough to recover once the stress has passed. Occasionally, strong measures (i.e., botanical insecticides, alternative fertilizers, etc.) may need to be applied by farmers employing alternative methods to control specific pests or soil problems. Agroecology provides the guidelines to carefully manage agroecosystems without unnecessary or irreparable damage. Simultaneous with the struggle to fight pests, diseases, or soil deficiency, the agroecologist strives to restore the resiliency and strength of the agroecosystem. If the cause of the disease, pests, soil degradation, and so forth, is understood as imbalance, then the goal of the agroecological treatment is to recover balance. In agroecology, biodiversification is the primary technique to evoke self-regulation and sustainability.