To review notes covering agricultural issues, click on Green Revolution for notes on current trends and patterns in agriculture and on the "Green Revolution," on chemicals for notes on pesticide use in agriculture, on land for notes on land degradation associated with agriculture (including consequences of inappropriate irrigation and overgrazing), and on sustainable for notes on sustainable agriculture.
Links within the following goals and questions will take you to one important area of the lecture notes that covers or introduces the relevant material, however many of the topics are covered in multiple places in the notes, so full review will often be necessary.
(Click "Navigate" for reminders on how to move within and among these documents.)
UNIT GOALS AND QUESTIONS
(1) You should understand what the "Green Revolution " is and should be able to discuss pros and cons of that revolution, from ecological and ethical perspectives. What trends have taken place in recent decades in agricultural production? Consider fertilizers (what is eutrohpication?), genetic diversity, pesticides, human food supply, human population growth, fossil fuel reliance, etc.
(2) What is "fertilizer addiction ?" What agricultural practices and soil characteristics can result in this dependency? What are some pros and cons of heavy reliance on inorganic fertilizers in agriculture (from both agricultural and larger ecological perspectives)? What alternative exist to nearly exclusive reliance on inorganic fertilizers for maintaining soil fertility and what, if any, impediments are there to their use?
(3) You should understand the concept of "feedback" in ecological systems, and should understand how use of pesticides can interfere with natural feedbacks that operate to control pests.
(4) What trends have pesticide production and use followed, and how fully are pests controlled in agricultural systems now as compared to during the pre-pesticide era?
(5) What are some problems associated with the use of pesticides, and how can the problems be avoided? (Remember that this link takes you only to one place in the notes where problems are discussed; there are other places also!)
(6) You should understand the processes contributing to land degradation (soil erosion, salinization and waterlogging); what are they, what are their physical and social causes, and what effect do they have on the productivity of agroecosystems?
(7) How does overgrazing affect rangelands? What characteristics of rangelands are affected?
(8) What are conservation tillage and the conservation reserve program (CRP)? What problem(s) do they attempt to solve? Do they create any new problems--if so, what? Do they have any unintended benefits, and what are these, if any?
(9) What is I.P.M.? What are some of its components?
(10) Is "biological control" of pests trouble-free with regard to ecosystem impacts? Why or why not?
(11) What are some uses for "GMO's" in agriculture? What kinds of benefits and risks are associated with their use?
(12) What other agricultural practices could be (or are being) changed to improve the sustainability of agriculture, and what obstacles exist (if any) to their adoption? What is the status of labeling foods as "organic" and what does the label tell you (or not!)?
FOR FURTHER READING (OPTIONAL!)
Altieri. M.A. 2004. Linking ecologists and traditional farmers in the search for sustainable agriculture. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 2: 35 - 42. (Discusses the wealth of useful information contained in traditional farming systems - which cover over 10 million hectares worldwide - and attempts to model agroecosystems after them.)
Banks, J.E. 2004. Divided culture: integrating agriculture and conservation biology. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 2: 537-545. (Discusses some means by which agriculture and conservation biology could be better integrated to produce mutually beneficial outcomes.)
Bennett, E.M., S.R. Carpenter, and N.F. Caraco. 2001. Human impact on erodable phosphorus and eutrophication: a global perspective. BioScience 51: 227-234. (Examines data suggesting that human activities are increasing P accumulation in soils and thus in rivers, lakes, and coastal oceans, with adverse consequences. See also "Pea Soup" from WorldWatch March/April 2002: 24 - 32 for a layperson's version of similar information.)
Beschta, R.L et al. 2012. Adapting to climate change on western public lands: addressing the ecological effects of domestic, wild, and feral ungulates. Environmental Management DOI 10.1007/s00267-012-9964-9 (Suggests that, "Removing or reducing livestock across lareg areas of public land would alleviate a wiedly recognized and long-term stressor and make these lands less susceptible to the effects of climate change." Read this paper!)
Brown, L.R. 1984. Conserving soils. Pp. 53-73, In: State of the World 1984, ed. by L.R. Brown, et al. W.W. Norton and Co., N.Y. (Facts and figures on soil erosion around the world, including sections on effects of erosion on soil productivity and the roles of economics and governments in soil conservation.)
Brown, L.R. 1994. Who will feed China? World Watch Sept./Oct. 1994. (A frightening look at the prospect that China's decreasing grain production coupled with increased grain consumption will outstrip the rest of the world's export capacity.)
Brown, L.R. 1997. Can we raise grain yields fast enough? World Watch July/August 1997. Pp. 8-17. (Provides insights into trends in global production of rice, wheat and corn: the trends in production, the drivers of those trends, and tries to predict the likely future of production levels.)
Brown, L.R. 1997. Facing the prospect of food scarcity. Ch. 2 In: State of the World 1997, ed. by L.R. Brown, et al., W.W. Norton and Co., NY. (Facts and figures on our prospects for being able to feed the world's population, which argue that we are depleting long-term resources in the attempt.)
Brown, L.R. 2001. Eradicating hunger: a growing challenge. Ch 3 In State of the World 2001, ed by L.R. Brown, et al., W. W. Norton and Co., NY. (Reviews current trends in hunger in various regions of the world, and techniques that can be used (potentially) to increase agricultural productivity. Lots of useful statistics on production trends and prospects.)
Brush, S. 2004. The Complexity of Crops. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT. (This book assesses the state of crop diversity in the world at present, in the past, and the potential for its future preservation.)
Bullock, D.G. 1992. Crop rotation. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences 11:309-326. (Excellent review of reasons that farmers decreased their use of crop rotation and reasons that rotation should, instead, be increased to improve sustainability of agricultural systems.)
Carpenter, S. (et al.) 1998. Nonpoint pollution of surface waters with phosphorus and nitrogen. Issues in Ecology 3, Ecological Society of America. (Describes major nonpoint sources of N- and P-containing compounds into waters, and describes their impacts on ecosystems and on human uses of the waters.)
Conley, D.J. et al. 2009. Controlling eutrophication: nitrogen and phosporus. Science 323: 1014 - 1015. (A nice review of consequences for eutrophication of reducing nitrogen or phosporus inputs, or both, with attention to both freshwater and marine systems (including "dead zones.")
Cox, T.S. (et al.) 2006. Prospects for developing perennial grain crops. BioScience 56: 649-659. (Points out advantages that could be derived from perennial grain crops, describes breeding programs targeted at this objective, indicates that success will probably take many years.)
Diaz, R.J. and R. Rosenberg. 2008. Spreading dead zones and consequences for marine ecosystems. Science 321: 926-929. (Discusses the exponential spread of dead zones in the world's oceans since ~ the 1960's; various causes for them; and impacts on ocean ecosystems.)
Duce, R.A. (and 29 others!!!). 2008. Impacts of atmospheric nitrogen on the open ocean. Science 320: 893-897. (Examines known and likely effects of increased nitrogen deposition into oceans, weighing the "benefits" in terms of increased ocean productivity and thus draw down of atmospheric CO2 against "costs" in terms of increased oceanic emission of N20.)
Dunn, C.P., F. Stearns, G.R. Guntenspergen, D.M. Sharpe. 1993. Ecological benefits of the conservation reserve program. Conservation Biology 7:132-137. (Argues that the CRP has benefits in addition to reducing soil loss, including creation of wildlife and plant habitat, decrease in landscape fragmentation, and increased CO2 uptake.)
Dybas, C.L. 2005. Dead zones spreading in world oceans. BioScience 55: 552-557. (Reviews current status of ocean "dead zones" [hypoxic areas], their consequences, and understanding of their causes. Says relatively little about strategies for diminishing the flow of nutrients that seems to be responsible for their formation.)
Fargione, J.E., et al. 2009. Bioenergy and wildlife: threats and opportunities for grassland conservation. BioScience59: 767-777. (Reviews trends in land use for biofuel crop production, particularly corn for ethanol, and offers perpectives on issues related to meeting demand for biofuels without having negative impacts on wildlife.)
Field, J.P. et al. 2010. The ecology of dust. Frontiers and Ecology and Environment 8: 423 - 430. (A useful review of wind erosion and the consequences of such erosion for the site of removal and of deposition, at scales ranging from local to global.)
Foley, J.A. (and many others). 2005. Global consequences of land use. Science 309: 570-573. (Reviews drivers for and consequences of global land use changes. Discusses trade-offs between meeting immediate human needs and maintaining ecosystem services on which life depends.)
Galloway, J.N. (and many others). 2008. Transformation of the nitrogen cycle: recent trends, questions, and potential solutions. Science 320: 889 - 892. (A frightening look at human influences on the availability of reactive nitrogen compounds - sources and likely ecosystem consequences. I suspect that we'll hear a lot more about "excess" nitrogen in the future…an emerging problem.)
Gardner, G. 1996. Preserving agricultural resources. Ch 5 In: State of the World 1996, ed. By L.R. Brown, et al., W.W. Norton & Co. (Discusses current condition and future prospects for a variety of resources on which agriculture depends, including soil, water, genetic diversity of crops, and pest controls.)
Gardner, G. 1996. IPM and the war on pests. WorldWatch March/April 1996 21-27. (A nice review of some problems with excessive reliance on chemical pesticides, basic concepts of IPM and offers some positive case studies.)
Gardner, G. 1997. Preserving global cropland. Ch 3 In: State of the World 1997, ed by L.R. Brown, et al., W.W. Norton & Co. (Covers loss of cropland to urbanization and degradation of various types, and the consequences of these losses for dependence of many nations on grain imports; focus on Asia.)
Gebhardt, M.R., et al. 1985. Conservation tillage. Science 230:625-630. (A good, brief review of ecological effects of conservation tillage versus conventional tillage.)
Gianessi, L. 1993. The Quixotic quest for chemical-free farming. Issues in Science and Technology fall 1993: 29 - 36. (Argues that alternatives to most chemical pesticides do not exist and that prospects for the future aren't positive because the federal research program is lacking in this area and regulatory problems abound.)
Gould, F. 1991. The evolutionary potential of crop pests. American Scientist 79:496-507. (Reviews past history of pests' evolution of resistance to pesticides, of crop-seed mimicry by weeds (fascinating!), and of pests evolving to cope with cultural conditions, and makes suggestions for human responses ranging from genetic engineering of hosts to alternative growing methods.)
Greaver, T.L. et al. 2012. Ecological effects of nitrogen and sulfur air pollution in the US: What do we know? Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10: 365 - 372. A synthesis of ecological efects of nitrogen and sulfur air pollution in the US, 40 years after passage of the US Clean Air Act (and subsequent amendments to it). Relevant to our discussion of tropospheric ozone (NOx pollutants being one of the precursors) and of eutrophication attributable in part of agriculturally-related sources of nitrogen.Halweil, B. 2001. Organic gold rush. WorldWatch May/June 2001. (Reviews what is happening to demand for organic produce in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, and what is thus happening to acreage's and production methods. Asks whether organic farms can continue to be environmentally-benign when they cover large acreage's.)
Herrick, J.E. et al., 2010. National ecosystem assessments supported by scientific and local knowledge. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 8: 403-408. (Describes an approach to assessing land degradation and biotic integrity using a combination of scientific and local knowledge.)
Halweil, B. 2006. Can organic farming feed us all? WorldWatch May/June 2006: 18-24. (Reviews claims and counter claims about what would happen to agricultural production with a shift to organic methods, points out that the answers depend on the region of the world (production might decrease slightly in N. America and Europe but would be likely to increase in lesser developed countries), points out that a switch would confer many non-production related benefits, and suggests that a "middle path" between conventional modern agriculture and pure organic ag is probably desirable.)
Horowitz, J. 2012. Parkinson's Alley. Sierra Jan/Feb
:36-43. (An investigative report that suggests strong linkages between exposure to certain pesticides, through consumption of contaminated ground water and other pathways, and the occurrence of Parkinson's disease.)
Jackson, R. B. et al. 2001. Water in a changing world. Ecological Applications 11: 1027 - 1045. (Reviews what is known -- and not known -- about suplies of freshwater, globally, and tries to make projections for the future. Considers the likely influences of climate change on the hydrological cycle, increases in human population, and changes in efficiency of water use. Increases in eficiency of use will become more and more important. A summary of this report, written for the lay person, is available as Issue # 9 in the Ecological Society of America's Issues in Ecology series, and can be found as a PDF at http://www.esa.org/science/Issues/FileEnglish/issue9.pdf)
Jackson, W. and J. Piper. 1989. The necessary marriage between ecology and agriculture. Ecology 70(6):1591-1593. (Argues that humans plunged into agriculture without taking "lessons" from the functioning of natural ecosystems and that we need to incorporate ecosystem understanding into agriculture to promote sustainability.)
Jordan, T.E. and D.E. Weller. 1996. Human contributions to terrestrial nitrogen flux. BioScience 46: 655-664. (Attempts to model the sources, sinks, and fluxes of nitrogen for various regions of the US, including all the major components of anthropogenic flux, and compares these nitrogen budgets to those calculated for some other regions of the world. Provides insights into the magnitude of human influence on nitrogen budgets, with some speculation about possible consequences.)
Kaiser, J. 2001. Words (and axes) fly over transgenic trees. Science 292: 34-36. (Focuses on transgenic trees and controversies associated with their deployment. Most of the issues are in common with transgenic crop plants. Quotes liberally from OSU's own Dr. Steven Strauss, who suffered from vandalism at one of his experimental plantations in the spring of 2001.)
Kaiser, J. 2004. Wounding Earth's fragile skin. Science 304: 1616-1618. (Reviews the status of soil degradation globally. See also pp. 1614-1615 in the same issue, which is a map of soil degradation around the world, with primary causes listed for each region. Map available in interactive form at www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/304/5677/1614)
Kulkarni, M.V., P.M. Groffman, and J.B. Yavitt. 2008. Solving the global nitrogen problem: it's a gas! Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 6: 199 - 206. (Reviews process of denitrification - converting various forms of nitrogen to N2 gas - and discusses potential for improving our understanding of this process and possibly enhancing it to mitigate environmental impacts of increased production of reactive nitrogen compounds.)
Macneale, K.H., P.M. Kiffney and N.L. Scholz. 2010. Pesticides, aquatic food webs, and the conservationof Pacific salmon. Frontiers inEcology and Environment 8: 475-482. (Cogent description of the potential for "bottom up" effects of pesticides to have impacts throughout aquatic food webs.)
Mann, C. 1997. Reseeding the green revolution. Science 277: 1038-1043. (Reviews some of the accomplishments of the green revolution and the agricultural changes that made these accomplishments possible. Points out that increasing demand for food in the future is unlikely to be met by current agricultural methods [that is, that agricultural production is no longer keeping ahead of population growth] and that new commitments to agricultural research are needed to enable future increases in food production.)
Manning, R. 2002. Agriculture versus biodiversity: will market solutions suffice? Conservation in Practice 3: 18-27. (Focuses on nitrogen damage related to agricultural inputs, and on an attempt to encourage farmers in Mexico to use nitrogen fertilizers more efficiently, which demonstrated that there are great challenges in getting farmers to change agricultural practices, even when the change has been demonstrated to be cost-effective.)
Marvier. M. 2001. Ecology of transgenic crops. American Scientist 89: 160-167. (Talks about potential risks and benefits associated with transgenic crops and focuses on the difficulty of measuring risks reliably.)
Marvier, M. et al. 2008. Harvesting data from genetically engineered crops. Science 320: 452-453. (Makes the case that lack of record keeping on what GMO crops are planted where and when impedes our ability to learn from the experiment of planting them out -- what are farmer and ecosystem consequences? Record keeping is vital.)
Matson, P.A., W.J. Parton, A.G. Power, and M.J. Swift. 1997. Agricultural intensification and ecosystem properties. Science 277: 504-509. (Lauds expansion and intensification of agricultural production in terms of the resultant increases in food production, but points out serious environmental consequences of this intensification and expansion. Argues for use of ecologically-based management strategies to increase sustainability of agricultural production while reducing off-site consequences.)
McGinn, A.P. 2000. POPs culture. WorldWatch March/April 2000. (Discusses a variety of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), only some of which are agriculturally-related. Describes human and ecosystem health problems associated with them, and approaches to regulating their use.)
Messing, R.H. and M.G. Wright. 2006. Biological control of invasive species: solution or pollution? Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 4: 132-140. (Reviews use of biological control for invasive pests in agricultural and other settings; points out regulatory weaknesses in the US; and offers some generalizations.)
Mitsch, W.J., et al. 2001. Reducing nitrogen loading to the Gulf of Mexico from the Mississippi River Basin: strategies to counter a persistent ecological problem. BioScience 51: 373-388. (A good review of potential and known sources of N to the systems, and of potential solutions. Advocates use of "biotechnology: -- using natural ecosystems to help solve the problem.)
Moeller, L. and K, Wang. 2008. Engineering with precision: tools for the new generation of transgenic crops. BioScience 58: 391-401. (A review of major genetic engineering methods and analysis of likely prospects for the future. A relatively "upbeat" perspective on the promises associated with such engineering.)
National Research Council. 1989. Alternative Agriculture. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. (The U.S. National Academy of Sciences took on the project of analyzing U.S. agriculture from economic, ecological, and sociological perspectives, and this book is a result of that analysis. The report analyzes the current situation and also examines the scientific and economic viability of alternative agricultural systems that can help maintain productivity and competitiveness of U.S. farms while reducing the adverse environmental consequences of farming. The book also includes 11 case studies describing 14 farms that are managed with various degrees of alternative practices, and it advocates the adoption of alternative practices by modern farmers. Loaded with information).
National Research Council. 1994. Rangeland Health: New Methods to Classify, Inventory, and Monitor Rangelands. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. (The National Research Council is the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences. A group of scientists were convened to summarize the state of information of the topics listed in the title, and to recommend standardized approaches. Most of the authors are professors at Land Grant Universities or government officials with the USDA or USDI. A balanced and informative look at a controversial topic.)
National Research Council. 2002. Environmental Effects of Transgenic Plants: The Scope and Adequacy of Regulation. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. (Reviews what we know and don't know about environmental effects of GMO's and reviews mechanisms currently in place for regulating their testing prior to release. Offers suggestions, including "bioconfinement," which minimizes risks of genes spreading to other organisms by making the GMO's sterile.)
National Research Council. 2010. The Impact of Genetically Engineered Crops on Farm Sustainability in the United States. Summary text available at this link.Obrycki, J.J., et al. 2001. Transgenic insecticidal corn: beyond insecticidal toxicity to ecological complexity. BioScience 51: 353-361. (Focuses on corn engineered to produce Bt-toxins and concludes that the potential benefits of crop engineering for insect pest management may not outweigh the potential ecological and economic risks. Note use of word "potential" -- for more on the uncertainties, see Marvier (above) and Wolferbarger et al. (below).)
Palumbi, S.R. 2001. Humans as the world's greatest evolutionary force. Science 293: 1786 - 1790. (Reviews an often overlooked impact of humans on the biosphere, which is our power to speed evolutionary change in organisms such as agricultural pests and disease agents. Reviews examples of these human-induced changes, estimates their economic costs, and discusses methods of decreasing the selective pressure imposed by humans.)
Paoletti, M.G. and D. Pimentel. 1996. Genetic engineering in agriculture and the environment: assessing risks. BioScience 46: 665-673. (Concludes that genetic engineering holds great promise for improving agricultural production and keeping it environmentally sound, but that some risks are also associated. Provides abundant data and examples. Suggests that much time and effort must be put into laboratory and field testing before genetically engineered organisms are released to minimize risks.)
Pardo, L.H. et al. 2011. Effects of nitrogen deposition and empirical nitrogen critical loads for ecoregions of the United States. Ecological Applications 21: 3049 - 3082. (An amazing synthesis of data on nitrogen deposition and its effects on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, including attempts to estimate "critical loads" for various receptors. "Critical loads" are defined as the input of a pollutant below which no detrimental ecological effects occur over the long term, based on present knowledge.)
Pearson, C.J. 2007. Regnerative, semiclosed systems: a priority for twenty-first-century agriculture. BioScience 57: 409-418. (Describes need to - and means to - change from conventional open or "leaky" agricultural systems to more closed, regenerative systems. Discusses how such a shift could be encouraged and what advantages are likely to accrue.)
Pimentel, D., L.E. Hurd, A.C. Bellotti, M.J. Foster, I.N. Oka, O.D. Shoales, and J.R. Whitman. 1973. Food production and the energy crisis. Science 182:443-449. (An early 1970's analysis of the changed energy inputs in corn production in the midwestern U.S. between the 1940's and the 70's. While the actual numbers are dated, the concepts and trends still apply, and see Pimentel and Dazhong forsomething of an update.)
Pimentel, D. and W. Dazhong. 1990 Technological changes in energy use in U.S. agricultural production. Chapter 5 in Agroecology, ed. by C. R. Carroll, et al. McGraw Hill, NY. (Updates Pimentel et al., 1973, above.)
Pimentel, D., C. Glenister, S. Fast, and D. Gallahan. 1984. Environmental risks of biological pest controls. Oikos 42:283-290. (Discusses some of the primary biological pest controls, pointing out that each of them carry hazards as well as advantages compared to conventional chemical methods of control.)
Pimentel, D. (and 10 other authors) 1991. Environmental and economic effects of reducing pesticide use. BioScience 41(6): 402-409. (An analysis of economic and ecological effects of reducing pesticide use in the U.S., based on analysis of 40 major U.S. crops. Analysis assumes substitution of currently available biological, cultural, and environmental pest-control technologies for some current pesticide-control practices, and concludes that we could reduce pesticide use by 50 percent with only minor cost increases to the consumer. The analysis is, however, controversial.)
Pimentel, D. (and nine other authors). 1992. Environmental and economic costs of pesticide use. BioScience 42:750-760. (Attempts to calculate dollar costs of environmental and human-health effects of pesticide use in U.S. and concludes that these sum to approximately $8 billion/year in U.S. As in all Pimentel work, the analysis is intriguing but may be biased and is controversial.)
Pimentel, D. (and eight others). 1992. Conserving biological diversity in agricultural/forestry systems. BioScience 42:354-362. (Argues that, since much land is managed for agriculture and forestry, we must work harder to protect biological diversity within these managed systems rather than focusing largely on preserves. Reviews biological diversity within these managed systems and threats to that diversity.)
Pimentel, D. and H. Lehman (eds). 1993. The Pesticide Question: Environment, Economics and Ethics. Chapman and Hall, NY. (A thorough, although not necessarily objective, review.)
Pimentel, D. (and numerous others). 1997. Water resources: agriculture, the environment and society. BioScience 47: 97-106. (A sobering look at water resources: where are they, what are they used for, and what the consequences and future of that use are likely to be.)
Postel, S. 1989. Halting land degradation. Pp. 21-40, In: State of the World 1989, ed. by L.R. Brown, et al. W.W. Norton and Co., N.Y. (Facts and figures galore, as well as discussion of causes of land degradation, and methods of reversing it, all with international emphasis.)
Postel, S. 1998. Water for food production: will there be enough in 2025? BioScience 48: 629-627. (Discusses ways that water is used in food production, including aquaculture; future constraints on global food production; prospects for supplying needed irrigation water; and concludes that water availability will be a serious constraint to achieving food requirements projected for 2025.)
Qaim, M. and D. Zilberman. 2003. Yield effects of genetically modified crops in developing countries. Science 299: 900-902. (In contrast to some other studies, this study reports that cotton engineered to produce the Bt toxin outyielded conventional cotton in India, while also demonstrating reduced pest damage.)
Relyea, R.A., N.M. Schoeppner, and J.T. Hoverman. 2005. Pesticides and amphibians: the importance of community context. Ecological Applications 15: 1125-1134. (Describes an outdoor mesocosm experiment involving three tadpole species, which suggests that the herbicide, Roundup, can have directly detrimental effects, while the insecticide malathion had positive indirect effects in some cases, apparently by killing predatory beetles. One more piece in the amphibian decline puzzle, perhaps?)
Rissler, J. 2005. A growing concern. Catalyst (the magazine of the Union of Concerned Scientists) 4: 2 - 5. (Excellent treatment of the status of pharma crop (crops engineered to produce pharmacuetical or industrial compounds) culture in the US, risks, benefits, and recommendations).
Robertson, G.P. and S.M. Swinton. 2005. Reconciling agricultural productivity and environmental integrity: a grand challenge for agriculture. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 3: 38-46. (Discusses need for an ecological approach to agriculture in the face of its attempting to feed an ever larger human population without sacrificing (excessively) environmental integrity. Describes some of the key areas where research is needed in terms of ecological interactions in agroecosystems and economic value of ecosystem services associated with ag.)
Ronald, P.C. and R. W. Adamchak. 2008. Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of food. Oxford University Press, 226 pp. (A plant geneticist and organic farmer wrote this together, trying to make the case that genetic engineering can greatly advance food production and minimize use of syntthetic chemicals at the same time. In my view, they overlook important problems from an ecological perspective, largely related to the movement of genes, but that's just my opinion!)
Rosegrant, M.W. and S.A. Cline. 2003. Global food security: challenges and policies. Science 302: 1917-1919. (Discusses projections relative to food supply for the next 50 years and beyond. Makes the case that increasing water scarcity will be a problem, and that more investments in research and infrastructure are needed along with policy reforms. Suggests that climate change and HIV/AIDS will also be critical influences on food security in many regions.)
Sampat, P. 2001. Uncovering groundwater pollution. Ch 2 In LR. Brown et al., eds, State of the World 2001. . W.W. Norton and Co., N.Y. (Discusses the importance of groundwater for drinking water and agriculture, its depletion, and the increasing realization that is pollution is really a "hidden crisis." Reviews agriculturally-related sources of pollution, including nitrates and pesticides, as well as other sources of groundwater pollution.)
Schoen, D.J., J.R. Reichman, and N.C. Ellstrand. 2008. Transgene escape monitoring, population genetics, and the law. BioScience 58: 71 - 77. (Argues that, to track movement of genes from GMO crops to non-GMO crops or relatives, information is needed on the genetic makeup of the GMO organisms, yet that information is often not available to the scientific community, as it is held as proprietary by corporations; this impedes our knowledge.)
Science 327: 797 - 834  (This special section of Science is comprised of a series of 18 articles that treat a range of issues in modern agriculture and propsects for the future, all centered around the primary title, "Feeding the future." LOADS of good information!)
Sherman, L. 2010. The range keepers. Terra Winter 2010 (Interesting story about OSU's cooperation in research to improve management of ranchlands near Brothers, OR, working with the McCormack and Hatfield family ranches. Amazing controlled study of effects of juniper removal on water availability!)
Snow, A.A. and many others. 2005. Genetically engineered organisms and the environment: current status and recommendations. Ecological Applications 15: 377-404. (This Report by the Ecological Society of America evaluates the ecological effects of current and proposed field-released genetically modified organisms, describing potential benefits and risks. Offers recommendations for reducing environmental risks.)
Soleri, D., D.A. Cleveland, and F. A. Cuevas. 2006. Transgenic crops and crop varietal diversity: the case of maize in Mexico. BioScience 56: 503 - 513. (A clear, cogent discussion of the risks associated with transgenic crops in terms of biological and cultural diversity of crops, with specific reference to maize (corn) in Mexico. Written in a wonderfully clear, "question" "answer" = ("yes" or "no" or "maybe") format.)
Stevens, J.E. 1994. Science and religion at work. BioScience 44:60-64. [Two fascinating case studies involving traditional agricultural practices (even voodoo!) that were at first scoffed at by western scientists and later discovered to be vitally important to productivity of the systems.]
Stokstad, E. 2011. Can biotech and organic farmers get along? Science332: 166 - 169. [An excellent discussion of some of the many issues that confront organic farmers in relation to the planting of GMO crops in their vicinity]Strobel, G.A. 1991. Biological control of weeds. Scientific American July 1991. 72-78. (A review of current (for 1991) and potential approaches to biological control of weeds.)
Thomas,. M.P. 2002. The [new] harvesters. Audubon Sept. 2002: 68 - 74. (Describes, by examining case studies, the potential important for humans and for ecosystems, of community-supported agriculture, eating locally-produced food, and "organic" farming methods.)
Tuxil, J. 2000. The biodiversity that people made. WorldWatch May/June 2000. (Discusses traditional farming methods and describes how their use of genetic diversity within single crops and across crps (e.g., multi-cropping) can enhance production. Contrasts this with more technologically-advanced agriculture, which is simplified in terms of its reliance on genetic diversity.)
Vitousek, P.M., J.D. Aber, R.W. Howarth et al. 1997. Human alteration of the global nitrogen cycle: sources and consequences. Ecological Applications 7: 737-750. (Report of a panel of scientists convened to describe the extent and magnitude of human impacts on the nitrogen cycle and known and likely consequences for terrestrial, freshwater, and marine systems. This human-induced increase in the rate of nitrogen fixation is potentially a HUGE issue for natural and human-made ecosystems.)
Vitousek, P.M., R. Naylor, T. Crews, M.B. David, (and about 10 other authors...). 2009. Nutrient imbalances in agricultural development. Science 324: 1519-1520. (Examines nutrient additions to agricultural systems in the US, china, and western Kenya, assessing agricultural inputs versus the harvest removal, with a focus on nitrogen. Demonstrates increasing efficiency of use of fertilizer in US, excess use in China, and depletion in Kenya...)
Wagoner, P. 1990. Perennial grain development: past efforts and potential for the future. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences 9(5):381-409. (Reviews some potential risks and benefits associated with the use of genetically engineered organisms, and concludes that key experiments on both are lacking. Discusses the kind of experiments that are needed, their complexity, and reminds us that uncertainties about safety are inevitable if more exhaustive experiments are carried out.)
Wilson, D. 2001. Fateful Harvest. HarperCollins, NY. ("The true story of a small town, a global industry, and a toxic secret." Just what it says - what gets put on agricultural fields and how does it move through the agroecosystem - and into humans. Reveals that hazardous compounds of many types are disposed of - deliberately -- through incorporation into products such as fertilizers.)
Wolfbarger, L.L. and P.R. Phifer. 2000. The ecological risks and benefits of genetically engineered plants. Science 290: 2088 - 2093. (Reviews some potential rishs and benefits associated with use of genetically engineered organisms and concludes that key experiments on both are lacking. Discusses the kinds of experiments that are needed, and their complexity, and reminds us that uncertainties about safety are inevitable even if more exhaustive experiments are carried out.)
Zedlar, J.B. 2003. Wetlands at your service: reducing the impacts of agriculture at the watershed scale. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 1: 65-72. (Reviews advantages that can be gained when attempts are made to restore marginally-productive agricultural land located on drained, former wetland. Efforts can be supported by the 2002 Farm Bill.)
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