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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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Diversity, Bet-hedging, and Selection among Ideas

Diversity, Bet-hedging, and Selection among Ideas

(p.190) 12 Diversity, Bet-hedging, and Selection among Ideas
Darwinian Agriculture

R. Ford Denison

Princeton University Press

This chapter summarizes the book's main conclusions and cautions against exclusive reliance on any single approach. The book's central thesis is that nature's wisdom is found primarily in competitively tested individual adaptations, in wild species and sometimes still in cultivated ones, rather than in the overall structure of natural ecosystems. It notes how some biotechnology advocates underestimate the perfection of existing individual adaptations and suggests that most near-term opportunities for genetic improvement of crops or livestock will involve tradeoffs that had constrained natural selection in the past. The chapter considers two basic approaches to the problem of varying environments: phenotypic plasticity and bet-hedging. It also discusses bet-hedging in food production, the bet-hedging benefits of organic farming and animal agriculture, and the use of diversity for bet-hedging in agricultural research. Finally, it describes traditional agricultural sciences that have been more receptive to input from evolutionary biology than biotechnology has.

Keywords:   adaptation, biotechnology, genetic improvement, tradeoffs, natural selection, phenotypic plasticity, bet-hedging, food production, agriculture, agricultural research

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