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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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What Won’t Work

What Won’t Work

Misguided Mimicry of Natural Ecosystems

(p.95) 7 What Won’t Work
Darwinian Agriculture

R. Ford Denison

Princeton University Press

This chapter considers four ideas—suggested by Wes Jackson and Jon Piper in the classic paper, “The necessary marriage between ecology and agriculture”—for how agriculture might attempt to mimic nature: perennial grain crops; reliance on only local sources of nutrients; polyculture or intercropping (that is, deploying crop diversity as mixtures, as in many natural ecosystems); and reliance on biodiversity to control pests. The chapter examines each of the proposals in light of the conclusion that copying landscape-scale patterns from natural ecosystems is not necessarily a good idea, arguing that all of them are representative of many self-styled “agroecologists.” It also discusses complementarity in crop mixtures, specifically spatial complementarity, temporal complementarity, and nutritional complementarity.

Keywords:   agriculture, perennial grain crops, nutrients, intercropping, crop diversity, biodiversity, pests, natural ecosystems, agroecologists, complementarity

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