Jill Richardson: Agroecology vs. Modern Farming Methods

Jill Richardson, food system expert, author, and founder of Lavidalocavore.org, has a great post up at Daily Kos today on the viability of agroecology leading the way to double food production in 10 years.

Agroecology applies science to indigenous and traditional farming practices to provide natural, sustainable, high yield farming methods using local resources. Following are two examples from Jill’s post:

Example 1:
“You first start growing your rice plants and then you time the hatching of your ducklings so that the rice plants are just a little too big for them to eat. As your rice grows, the ducks grow too, pooping out fertilizer and snacking on weeds and bugs that might otherwise harm your rice. And you can also grow azolla, an aquatic fern, in this system. Azolla crowds out weeds, fixes nitrogen, and serves as duck food.”

Example 2: “The “push-pull” method involves pushing pests away from corn by interplanting corn with an insect repelling crop called Desmodium (which can be fed to livestock), while pulling the pests toward small nearby plots of Napier grass, “a plant that excretes a sticky gum which both attracts and traps pests.” In addition to controlling pests, this system produces livestock fodder, thus doubling corn yields and milk production at the same time. And it improves the soil to boot!”

Why not just have Monstanto supply GMO seeds and chemical fertilizers?

“chemical inputs are a bit like drugs. Your land gets hooked. Once you’ve killed your soil and you no longer have the local varieties of seeds you used to use, you NEED those seeds and fertilizer every year. When the inputs are no longer free or subsidized, you’re screwed. And often, over time, you’ll need MORE fertilizer and pesticides just to get the same yields, once your soil is depleted and the bugs begin to evolve resistance to the pesticides.”

Big ag is big business, and big business has big influence on governments the world over. But big ag isn’t the solution to the global food shortage. It is bad for the environment, produces less healthy food, and damages the soil and culture of indigenous peoples.

If you care about farming practices and food safety, I recommend reading Jill’s article, which is also posted in much more detail at Alternet, and reading her book Recipe for America: Why Our Food System is Broken and What We Can Do to fix it. And you can stop in at her blog, lavidalocavore.org.

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