Return to Positive Agricultural Paradigms (Alternatives to Industrial Agriculture and its major units: Genetic Engineering, Biotechnology, and Industrial/Factory Farming Death Agriculture)

Definitions of key agricultural terms

  1. Agroecology is a holistic approach to agriculture, based on principles of ecology as well as food and nutrition security, food sovereignty and food justice which seek to enhance agricultural systems by using and recycling natural resources instead of relying on externally-purchased inputs. It encourages local/national food production by small food producers and family farmers, and is based on techniques that are not delivered from the top-down, but developed from farmers’ traditional knowledge and practices as well as from farmer innovations. This approach is based on farmers’ participation and makes nature a powerful ally in ensuring food and nutrition security, building healthy soils and conserving water. It increases farmers’ incomes and resilience in the face of climate change, while improving biodiversity and crop diversity. It is therefore crucial for all efforts to realize the human right to adequate food and nutrition. Governments must recognise that industrial approaches that degrade soil health and water retention, pollute water systems, poison nature and create dependency on external inputs, impoverish biodiversity and ecosystems are not only harmful and unnecessary, but also deeply misguided for a planet facing hunger, ecological crises and climate change. (Source: — Science in Society Archive: No to Climate Smart Agriculture: ‘Climate Smart Agriculture’ is agribusiness’ latest attempt to promote industrial farming and undermine agro-ecological approaches generally recognized as the real solution to food production under climate change)

  2. Polyculture is agriculture using multiple crops in the same space, in imitation of the diversity of natural ecosystems, and avoiding large stands of single crops, or monoculture. It includes crop rotation, multi-cropping, intercropping, companion planting, beneficial weeds, and alley cropping.”

  3. “Polyculture, though it often requires more labor, has several advantages over monoculture:”

    “Polyculture is one of the principles of permaculture.” (Source: — Polyculture - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

  4. Silvopasture is a form of agroforestry

  5. “Silvopasture, though more suitable to the western Kentucky landscape, is also a potential agroforestry option for many of the state’s farmers, [Deborah] Hill said. It is the combination of trees, forage and livestock in a single integrated operation.” (Source: — Agroforestry Combines Trees and Traditional Farm Enterprises By Terri McLean) [Recovered with the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine]

  6. Permaculture is an approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that are modeled on the relationships found in natural ecologies.”

  7. “Permaculture is sustainable land use design. This is based on ecological and biological principles, often using patterns that occur in nature to maximise effect and minimise work. Permaculture aims to create stable, productive systems that provide for human needs, harmoniously integrating the land with its inhabitants. The ecological processes of plants, animals, their nutrient cycles, climatic factors and weather cycles are all part of the picture. Inhabitants’ needs are provided for using proven technologies for food, energy, shelter and infrastructure. Elements in a system are viewed in relationship to other elements, where the outputs of one element become the inputs of another. Within a Permaculture system, work is minimised, "wastes" become resources, productivity and yields increase, and environments are restored. Permaculture principles can be applied to any environment, at any scale from dense urban settlements to individual homes, from farms to entire regions.” (Source: — Permaculture - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

  8. Companion planting is the planting of different crops in proximity (in gardening and agriculture), on the theory that they assist each other in nutrient uptake, pest control, pollination, and other factors necessary to increasing crop productivity.” (Source: — Companion planting - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

  9. Intercropping is the practice of growing two or more crops in close proximity. The most common goal of intercropping is to produce a greater yield on a given piece of land by making use of resources that would otherwise not be utilized by a single crop. Careful planning is required, taking into account the soil, climate, crops, and varieties. It is particularly important not to have crops competing with each other for physical space, nutrients, water, or sunlight. Examples of intercropping strategies are planting a deep-rooted crop with a shallow-rooted crop, or planting a tall crop with a shorter crop that requires partial shade.”

  10. “When crops are carefully selected, other agronomic benefits are also achieved. Lodging-prone plants, those that are prone to tip over in wind or heavy rain, may be given structural support by their companion crop (Trenbath 1976). Delicate or light sensitive plants may be given shade or protection, or otherwise wasted space can be utilized. An example is the tropical multi-tier system where coconut occupies the upper tier, banana the middle tier, and pineapple, ginger, or leguminous fodder, medicinal or aromatic plants occupy the lowest tier.”

    “Intercropping of compatible plants also encourages biodiversity, by providing a habitat for a variety of insects and soil organisms that would not be present in a single crop environment. This biodiversity can in turn help to limit outbreaks of crop pests (Altieri 1994) by increasing the diversity or abundance of natural enemies, such as spiders or parasitic wasps. Increasing the complexity of the crop environment through intercropping also limits the places where pests can find optimal foraging or reproductive conditions.”

    “The degree of spatial and temporal overlap in the two crops can vary somewhat, but both requirements must be met for a cropping system to be an intercrop. Numerous types of intercropping, all of which vary the temporal and spatial mixture to some degree, have been identified (Andrews & Kassam 1976). These are some of the more significant types:”

  11. Crop rotation is the practice of growing a series of dissimilar types of crops in the same area in sequential seasons for various benefits such as to avoid the build up of pathogens and pests that often occurs when one species is continuously cropped. Crop rotation also seeks to balance the fertility demands of various crops to avoid excessive depletion of soil nutrients. A traditional element of crop rotation is the replenishment of nitrogen through the use of green manure in sequence with cereals and other crops. It is one component of polyculture. Crop rotation can also improve soil structure and fertility by alternating deep-rooted and shallow-rooted plants.” (Source: — Crop rotation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

  12. “In agriculture, succession planting refers to several planting methods that increase crop availability during a growing season by making efficient use of space and timing.”

  13. “There are four basic approaches, that can also be combined:”

    “These techniques can be used to design complex, highly productive cropping systems. The more involved the plan, the more detailed knowledge is required, of the specific varieties and how they perform in a particular growing location.”

    “The term “succession planting” usually appears in literature for home gardening and small-scale farming, although the techniques apply to any scale. Some definitions include one or more, but not all of the four techniques described above.”

    “Succession planting is often used in organic farming. Multiple cropping describes essentially the same general method. A catch crop refers to a specific type of succession planting, where a fast-growing crop is grown simultaneously with, or between successive plantings of, a main crop.” (Source: — Succession planting - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

  14. Agricultural biodiversity is a sub-set of general biodiversity. It includes all forms of life directly relevant to agriculture: rare seed varieties and animal breeds (farm biodiversity), but also many other organisms such as soil fauna, weeds, pests, predators, and all of the native plants and animals (wild biodiversity) existing on and flowing through the farm. However, most attention in this field is given to crop varieties and to crop wild relatives. Cultivated varieties can be broadly classified into “modern varieties” and “farmer’s or traditional varieties”. Modern varieties are the outcome of formal breeding and are often characterized as ‘high yielding’. For example the short straw wheat and rice varieties of the Green Revolution. In contrast, farmer’s varieties (also known as landraces) are the product of (breeding and) selection carried out by farmers. Together, these varieties represent high levels of genetic diversity and are therefore the focus of most crop genetic resources conservation efforts. Agricultural biodiversity is the basis of our agricultural food chain, developed and safeguarded by farmers, livestock breeders, forest workers, fishermen and indigenous peoples throughout the world. The use of agricultural biodiversity (as opposed to non diverse production methods) can contribute to food security and livelihood security.” (Source: — Agricultural biodiversity - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

  15. Sustainable agriculture integrates three main goals—environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. A variety of philosophies, policies and practices have contributed to these goals. People in many different capacities, from farmers to consumers, have shared this vision and contributed to it. Despite the diversity of people and perspectives, the following themes commonly weave through definitions of sustainable agriculture.”

  16. “Sustainability rests on the principle that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Therefore, stewardship of both natural and human resources is of prime importance. Stewardship of human resources includes consideration of social responsibilities such as working and living conditions of laborers, the needs of rural communities, and consumer health and safety both in the present and the future. Stewardship of land and natural resources involves maintaining or enhancing this vital resource base for the long term.”

    “A systems perspective is essential to understanding sustainability. The system is envisioned in its broadest sense, from the individual farm, to the local ecosystem, and to communities affected by this farming system both locally and globally. An emphasis on the system allows a larger and more thorough view of the consequences of farming practices on both human communities and the environment. A systems approach gives us the tools to explore the interconnections between farming and other aspects of our environment.”

    “A systems approach also implies interdisciplinary efforts in research and education. This requires not only the input of researchers from various disciplines, but also farmers, farmworkers, consumers, policymakers and others.”

    “Making the transition to sustainable agriculture is a process. For farmers, the transition to sustainable agriculture normally requires a series of small, realistic steps. Family economics and personal goals influence how fast or how far participants can go in the transition. It is important to realize that each small decision can make a difference and contribute to advancing the entire system further on the “sustainable agriculture continuum.” The key to moving forward is the will to take the next step.”

    “Finally, it is important to point out that reaching toward the goal of sustainable agriculture is the responsibility of all participants in the system, including farmers, laborers, policymakers, researchers, retailers, and consumers. Each group has its own part to play, its own unique contribution to make to strengthen the sustainable agriculture community.” (Source: — What is Sustainable Agriculture?: University of California, Davis Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program) [Recovered with the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine]

  17. “Fundamentally, organic means foods that are in conformity with specific production standards. Organic foods don’t have food additives, fertilizers, sewage sludge, or pesticides, in accordance with fairly strict standards. A majority of countries block farmers from using the term “organic” on their goods if it has been modified genetically. You’ll find that organic meats have not had antibiotic drugs used or growth hormones on them USDA’s National Organic Program determines the criteria for any farm, wild crop harvesting, or handling operation that would like to sell an farm product as organically produced.” (Source: — Biodynamic and Organic Gardening Resource Site) [Recovered with the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine]

  18. Irucka Embry answered a few questions about “organic” in an article that he wrote in 2010 and was subsequently updated at Organic Questions and Answers

  19. “The standards for Biodynamically produced food is more stringent than that of organic foodstuffs. Demeter is the certification group that is responsible for the authentication of biodynamic products. The Biodynamic farmer conceives his farm in terms of forces and processes whereas organic and sustainable agriculture farmers think in terms of substances. The biodynamic farmer also uses the preparations outlined in Rudolf Steiner’s Agriculture course. The preparations are homeopathic substances designed to heal the earth and bring forth the force for a healthy farm organism. The Biodynamic farmer is tuned into the daily, monthly and seasonal patterns of nature, for instance, the impact of the moon phases on establishing seeds and plant development.The biodynamic farmer relies upon a minimal amount of nutrients from remote sources and, ideally will generate the richness of his soil through cover-cropping and the use of manure from animals that dwell on the farm. He realizes that by importing fertilizers he may also bring in problems from other farms. To date there are only a handful or Demeter Certified farms in the United States (about 110) but the number is growing as biodynamics gains critical mass in the Western Hemisphere.” (Source: — Biodynamic and Organic Gardening Resource Site) [Recovered with the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine]

  20. Compost is organic matter that has been decomposed and recycled as a fertilizer and soil amendment. Compost is a key ingredient in organic farming. At its most essential, the process of composting requires simply piling up waste outdoors and waiting a year or more. Modern, methodical composting is a multi-step, closely monitored process with measured inputs of water, air and carbon- and nitrogen-rich materials. The decomposition process is aided by shredding the plant matter, adding water and ensuring proper aeration by regularly turning the mixture. Worms and fungi further break up the material. Aerobic bacteria manage the chemical process by converting the inputs into heat, carbon dioxide and ammonium. The ammonium is further converted by bacteria into plant-nourishing nitrites and nitrates through the process of nitrification.”

  21. “Compost can be rich in nutrients. It is used in gardens, landscaping, horticulture, and agriculture. The compost itself is beneficial for the land in many ways, including as a soil conditioner, a fertilizer, addition of vital humus or humic acids, and as a natural pesticide for soil. In ecosystems, compost is useful for erosion control, land and stream reclamation, wetland construction, and as landfill cover (see compost uses). Compost can also be used to generate biogas through anaerobic digestion.” (Source: — Compost - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

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