Transforming Agriculture, Perennially


| Ecology, The Land Institute

Case Study 2019: Crop Protection Ecology

My science background is in community ecology of pest insects. Before I came to TLI I was studying the effects of crop diversity and organic agricultural practices on soil health, beneficial insects, and pest management in grain crop systems. One very important lesson I learned from scientists and farmers is that organic agriculture is a system, not just a series of crops. Sustainable organic grain farmers don’t simply stop using pesticides or replace synthetic fertilizers with manure. They plant a much greater diversity of crops, use more intricate crop rotations, and alter their tilling practices to build healthier soil, promote beneficial insects, and improve the robustness of their crops to inclement weather and pest outbreaks.

The goal of my program at The Land Institute is essentially the same as it is for organic farmers: to create a diverse agricultural system, with healthy soils and beneficial insects, that help our crop plants to better defend themselves. Unlike current grain crop farmers, our grains are all perennial. In most ways, this makes our crops much hardier than annual crops, as their perennial roots rapidly build healthy soil communities, their sturdy branches support beneficial insect predators and pollinators, and they are much more tolerant to drought. In other ways, perennial crops can be more challenging. Unlike organic agricultural farmers, we cannot rely on tillage or crop rotations to create diversity in time. We must instead create diversity in space, like the prairie systems we seek to mimic…


Click here to view and download the full 2019 Case Study.



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