This short reading list, which kept us busy in front of the fire over the holiday period, is a great way to get excited about transforming agriculture in 2017:
Designing agricultural landscapes for biodiversity-based ecosystem services – Basic and Applied Ecology
This vital new article by Douglas A. Landis makes a clear argument for more intensive design of agricultural landscapes, beyond the farm scale. From the abstract: “While it is well known that local and landscape factors interact, modifying overall landscape structure is seldom considered due to logistical constraints. I propose that the loss of ecosystem services due to landscape simplification can only be addressed by a concerted effort to fundamentally redesign agricultural landscapes. Designing agricultural landscapes will require that scientists work with stakeholders to determine the mix of desired ecosystem services, evaluate current landscape structure in light of those goals, and implement targeted modifications to achieve them.”
This short and highly practical new book from the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education program of the USDA “addresses the theoretical basis for agricultural systems research and provides a roadmap for building effective interdisciplinary and multi-stakeholder teams. This handbook is essential reading for researchers and producers working together to plan, implement and analyze complex, multifaceted systems research experiments.”
First map of smallholder farms in the developing world: They produce more than half the planet’s food calories – ILRI Clippings
Smallholder farmers are critical to the world’s food supply, but until recently there was no single map that showed where they were, or how much land they farm. Researchers at the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment (IonE) used household census data to fill this knowledge gap. Combining news originally published on the University of Minnesota’s website, along with the abstract and excerpts from the scientific article the story is based on, ILRI Clippings provides a detailed overview of this important accomplishment.
This feature story highlights a classic catch 22 in American agriculture: when the system is set up to protect farmers from economic losses that are caused by ecological factors, there is a direct incentive to use ecologically unsound practices. Journalist Kristin Ohlson does an admirable job uncovering the complicated web of agencies and regulations, including federal crop insurance, that throw up roadblocks to the adoption of even scientifically-proven best practices.