Under the larger umbrella of sustainable farming, agroecology considers pre-modern farm practices and ancestral knowledge and customs. Agroecology considers how food production that improves soil and plant quality sans chemical inputs, working with available biomass and biodiversity. Another important aspect is the focus on improving outputs for balanced nutrition.
As with many sustainable farming practices definitions have and are evolving, consider “Agroecology has been defined in many ways, in many places, and by many different stakeholders. Since the 1920’s, scientist and researches have used the term agroecology to refer to the application of ecological principles to agriculture. However, it was not until the early-1980’s that the discipline of ‘agroecology’ was named by ecologists, agronomists, and ethnobotanists.” (fao.org)
The Five “New” Principles of Agroecology Are:
- Recycling biomass and balancing nutrient flow and availability.
- Securing favorable soil conditions for plant growth through enhanced organic matter
- Minimizing losses of solar radiation, water, and nutrients by way of microclimate management, water harvesting, and soil cover.
- Enhancing biological and genetic diversification on cropland.
- Enhancing beneficial biological interactions and minimizing the use of pesticides. Now agroecologists are looking to integrate food systems, as well as agricultural systems, into the scope of agroecology.
As with many “sustainable” agriculture “movements” (feeling the need for air-quotations) there are three distinct areas where terra-firma exist:
- The Science – Agroecology’s scientific focus is studying the short and long term interactivity, inputs, and outcomes.
- The Practice – Agroecology practice is focused on systemic improvement within the agro-ecosystem and to stabilize yields.
- The Social Movement – Agroecology practitioners seek to nurture identity and culture, promote social justice, as well as to strengthen economic viability.
At the center of agroecology are humans. They are the primary input and facilitator as they are the ones responsible for examining roles and all relevant biophysical, technical, and socioeconomic components involved to then create a set of “best practices”. Application of which will be unique to each situation in order to facilitate positive outcomes and adherence to ideals.