Industrial agriculture faces painful challenges: the end of cheap energy, depleted water resources, impaired ecosystem services, and unstable climates.
Scientists searching for alternatives to the highly specialized, energy intensive industrial system might profitably look to the biological synergies inherent in multi-species systems, according to an article in the March-April 2007 issue of Agronomy Journal.
The paper's author, Fred Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow for Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University, states that industrial agriculture assumes:
- Production efficiency can be best achieved through specialization, simplification and concentration
Therapeutic intervention is the most effective way to control undesirable events
- Technological innovation will always be able to overcome production challenges
Volatile weather conditions predicted to be part of emerging climate change will make it difficult to sustain highly specialized cropping systems which require relatively stable climates. To keep agriculture productive, farmers likely will need to adjust quickly. If we can design farming systems that are less energy intensive, more resilient in the face of unstable climates, and that begin to out-produce monocultures by virtue of their multi-species output, the economic advantages of such complex farming operations might be an incentive to change.
A few farmers already operate successful, complex farming systems based on biological synergies and adaptive management. One is Takao Furuno's duck/fish/rice/fruit farm in Japan. He produces duck meat, duck eggs, fish meat, fruit, and rice without any purchased outside inputs, using a highly synergistic system of production on the same acreage where he previously only produced rice. And, in this new system, his rice yields have increased up to 50% over previous yields from an energy-intensive rice monoculture. Joel Salatin, of Polyface Farms near Swoope, VA, has developed a rotational grazing production system featuring pastures containing at least 40 varieties of plants and numerous animal species. Salatin's farm uses little fossil fuel, yet the farm is highly productive. The 57-hectare farm annually produces 30,000 dozen eggs, 10,000 to 12,000 broilers, 100 beef animals, 250 hogs, 800 turkeys, and 600 rabbits.
A study by George Boody and colleagues has calculated, on a watershed basis, that diverse, synergistic farms can be profitable and simultaneously benefit the environment. They showed that when farms are converted from corn/soybean monocultures to more diverse operations, net farm income can increase by as much as 108% while generating significant environmental and social benefits. Principles that might guide postmodern farms are almost diametrically opposed to those supporting industrial agriculture. They may need to:- Be energy conserving
- Achieve optimum productivity by featuring nutrient-density, and multi-product synergistic production on limited acreage
Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product
02.12.2016 | Purdue University
New findings about the deformed wing virus, a major factor in honey bee colony mortality
11.11.2016 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
19.01.2017 | Life Sciences
19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy