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Ecological agriculture: Principles, practices, and constraints1

  • Fred Magdoff (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 July 2007

The practice of ecological agriculture involves building the strengths of natural ecosystems into agroecosystems, purposely disturbed to produce food and fiber. The overall strategies include using practices that (a) grow healthy plants with good defense capabilities, (b) stressing pests, and (c) enhancing populations of beneficial organisms. These are accomplished by enhanced habitat management both above ground and in the soil. Many of the practices that contribute to the overall strategies are well known—such as intensive use of cover crops or reduced tillage. Reasons for why they have not been more widely used are discussed. The special challenges facing ecological agriculture in the poor countries of the Third World are also discussed. Re-engaging national governments in the active support of their agriculture and addressing the structural inequalities (including access to land) are essential to overcome the many problems facing farmers in the poor countries.

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4 F. Magdoff , L. Lanyon , and B. Liebhardt 1997. Nutrient cycling, transformations, and flows: implications for a more sustainable agriculture. Advances in Agronomy 60:173.

9 E. Holt-Gimenez 2002. Measuring farmers' agroecological resistance after Hurricane Mitch in Nicaragua: a case study in participatory, sustainable land management impact monitoring. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 93(1):87105.

10 D. Pimentel 2006. Soil erosion: a food and environmental threat. Environment, Development, and Sustainability 8:119137.

20 F. Magdoff 2004. A precarious existence: the fate of billions? Monthly Review 55(9):114.

26 S. Amin 2003. World poverty, pauperization, and capital accumulation. Monthly Review 55(5):19.

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