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Incorporating agroecology into the conventional agricultural curriculum

  • Miguel A. Altieri (a1) and Charles A. Francis (a2)


Agroecology is the development and application of ecological theory to the management of agricultural systems, according to the specific land and other resources available. Beyond the biological and climatic dimensions of agriculture and ecology, there is growing appreciation of the influence of social, economic, and political factors on the structure and success of farming systems. This broader field is becoming known as “agroecology and sustainable development.” Expansion of the conventional curriculum to include integrative themes is essential because of the need for students to appreciate a whole farm focus for analysis, to understand the impact of socio-economic factors, and to further develop their abilities to link people and environment. Two courses are proposed and described in detail “Biology of Agroecosystems” includes study of system structure and function, cycles and interactions among components, system development and performance, and the importance of resource conservation and use. “Agroecology and Sustainable Agricultural Development” includes a survey of systems around the world, an evaluation of resources and their use, the environmental impact of agriculture, the relationships between society and agriculture, the applications of agroecology to rural development, and some projections of alternative future strategies for food production. Future agricultural professionals need to understand how improvement of agroecosystems is closely linked to economic, cultural, and political systems, and how they are both enhanced and constrained by factors beyond biology and climate.



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1.Altieri, M.A. 1987. Agroecology: The Scientific Basis of Alternative Agriculture. Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado.
2.Altieri, M.A., and Hecht, S.B.. 1990. Agroecology and Small Farm Development. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.
3.di Castri, F., and Headley, M.. 1986. Enhancing the credibility of ecology: Is interdisciplinary research f or land use planning useful? GeoJournal 13:299–32.
4.Francis, C.A., Hora, C.B., and King, L.D. (eds). 1990. Sustainable Agriculture in Temperate Zones. John Wiley & Sons, New York, N.Y.
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6.Hart, R.D. 1980. Agroecosistemas. CATIE, Turrialba, Costa Rica.
7.National Research Council, Board on Agriculture. 1989. Alternative Agriculture. National Academy Press, Washington D.C.
8.Pierce, J. T. 1990. The Food Resource. Longman Scientific and Technical Publishing Co., New York, N.Y.


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Incorporating agroecology into the conventional agricultural curriculum

  • Miguel A. Altieri (a1) and Charles A. Francis (a2)


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