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Darwinian AgricultureHow Understanding Evolution Can Improve Agriculture$
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R. Ford Denison

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691139500

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691139500.001.0001

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Learning from Plants, Ants, and Ecosystems

Learning from Plants, Ants, and Ecosystems

Chapter:
(p.177) 11 Learning from Plants, Ants, and Ecosystems
Source:
Darwinian Agriculture
Author(s):

R. Ford Denison

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691139500.003.0011

This chapter examines the interactions between trees and fungus-growing-leaf-cutter ants, arguing that we can learn much from natural communities as long as we don't mistakenly assume perfection. It shows that natural selection can improve the fitness of each participant in multispecies interactions, regardless of the impact on the community as a whole. The chapter begins with an evolutionary perspective on chemicals as either signals, cues, or manipulation. This is followed by a discussion of the fungus-growing ants, with particular emphasis on their natural strategies for pest control, and the use of biotechnology for biological control of pests. The chapter concludes by stressing the importance of natural ecosystems in providing essential context for understanding the sophisticated adaptations of wild species, before applying them to agriculture.

Keywords:   trees, fungus-growing ants, natural selection, multispecies interactions, chemicals, pest control, biotechnology, leaf-cutter ants, natural ecosystems, agriculture

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