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Ecological agriculture: Principles, practices, and constraints

by Fred Magdoff
Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems ()

Abstract

The practice of ecological agriculture involves building the strengths of natural ecosystems into agroecosystems, purposely disturbed to produce food and fiber. The overall strategies include using practices that (a) grow healthy plants with good defense capabilities, (b) stressing pests, and (c) enhancing populations of beneficial organisms. These are accomplished by enhanced habitat management both above ground and in the soil. Many of the practices that contribute to the overall strategies are well knownsuch as intensive use of cover crops or reduced tillage. Reasons for why they have not been more widely used are discussed. The special challenges facing ecological agriculture in the poor countries of the Third World are also discussed. Re-engaging national governments in the active support of their agriculture and addressing the structural inequalities (including access to land) are essential to overcome the many problems facing farmers in the poor countries.

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