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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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Selfish Genes, Sophisticated Plants, and Haphazard Ecosystems

Selfish Genes, Sophisticated Plants, and Haphazard Ecosystems

(p.76) 6 Selfish Genes, Sophisticated Plants, and Haphazard Ecosystems
Darwinian Agriculture

R. Ford Denison

Princeton University Press

This chapter discusses the limitations of natural selection, arguing that the overall organization of even ancient natural ecosystems may be relatively imperfect compared to individual adaptations that have been repeatedly tested through competition. After considering the near-perfection of natural ecosystems from the perspective of agroecology, the chapter explains how natural selection improves genes and individuals, rather than ecosystems. It then compares natural ecosystems with agricultural ecosystems designed by humans in terms of their ability to improve ecosystem-wide properties. It also examines whether we can harvest more food, sustainably, from human-managed ecosystems or from natural ones by focusing on two systems: human cultivation of wild rice without fertilizer, and human management of reindeer herds (domesticated caribou).

Keywords:   natural selection, natural ecosystems, adaptation, competition, agroecology, agricultural ecosystems, cultivation, wild rice, reindeer, genes

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