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Agroecology is the study of ecological processes applied to agricultural production systems. Bringing ecological principles to bear in agroecosystems can.
Table of contents

In addition, Gliessman highlighted that socio-economic, technological, and ecological components give rise to producer choices of food production systems [9]. These pioneering agroecologists have helped to frame the foundation of what we today consider the interdisciplinary field of agroecology. To emit a point of view about a particular way of farming, an agroecologist would first seek to understand the contexts in which the farm s is are involved. Each farm may be inserted in a unique combination of factors or contexts.

Each farmer may have their own premises about the meanings of an agricultural endeavor, and these meanings might be different than those of agroecologists. Generally, farmers seek a configuration that is viable in multiple contexts, such as family, financial, technical, political, logistical, market, environmental, spiritual. Agroecologists want to understand the behavior of those who seek livelihoods from plant and animal increase, acknowledging the organization and planning that is required to run a farm.

Also, it is important to point out that there are large differences in organic standards among countries and certifying agencies. Three of the main areas that agroecologists would look at in farms, would be: the environmental impacts, animal welfare issues, and the social aspects. Environmental impacts caused by organic and non-organic milk production can vary significantly.

For both cases, there are positive and negative environmental consequences. Because organic milk production reduces pesticides utilization, it increases land use per ton of milk due to decreased crop yields per hectare.

Mainly due to the lower level of concentrates given to cows in organic herds, organic dairy farms generally produce less milk per cow than conventional dairy farms. Because of the increased use of roughage and the, on-average, lower milk production level per cow, some research has connected organic milk production with increases in the emission of methane [20]. Animal welfare issues vary among dairy farms and are not necessarily related to the way of producing milk organically or conventionally. A key component of animal welfare is freedom to perform their innate natural behavior, and this is stated in one of the basic principles of organic agriculture.

Also, there are other aspects of animal welfare to be considered - such as freedom from hunger, thirst, discomfort, injury, fear, distress, disease and pain. Because organic standards require loose housing systems, adequate bedding, restrictions on the area of slatted floors, a minimum forage proportion in the ruminant diets, and tend to limit stocking densities both on pasture and in housing for dairy cows, they potentially promote good foot and hoof health.

Some studies show lower incidence of placenta retention, milk fever, abomasums displacement and other diseases in organic than in conventional dairy herds [21]. However, the level of infections by parasites in organically managed herds is generally higher than in conventional herds [22]. Social aspects of dairy enterprises include life quality of farmers, of farm labor, of rural and urban communities, and also includes public health. Both organic and non-organic farms can have good and bad implications for the life quality of all the different people involved in that food chain.

As for the public health or food safety concern, organic foods are intended to be healthy, free of contaminations and free from agents that could cause human diseases. Organic milk is meant to have no chemical residues to consumers, and the restrictions on the use of antibiotics and chemicals in organic food production has the purpose to accomplish this goal.

But dairy cows in organic farms, as in conventional farms, indeed do get exposed to virus, parasites and bacteria that can contaminate milk and hence humans, so the risks of transmitting diseases are not eliminated just because the production is organic. No-tillage is one of the components of conservation agriculture practices and is considered more environmental friendly than complete tillage [23] [24]. Due to this belief, it could be expected that agroecologists would not recommend the use of complete tillage and would rather recommend no-till farming, but this is not always the case.

In fact, there is a general consensus that no-till can increase soils capacity of acting as a carbon sink, especially when combined with cover crops [23] [25]. No-till can contribute to higher soil organic matter and organic carbon content in soils [26] [27] , though reports of no-effects of no-tillage in organic matter and organic carbon soil contents also exist, depending on environmental and crop conditions [28]. In addition, no-till can indirectly reduce CO 2 emissions by decreasing the use of fossil fuels [26] [29].

Most crops can benefit from the practice of no-till, but not all crops are suitable for complete no-till agriculture [30] [31]. Crops that do not perform well when competing with other plants that grow in no-tilled soil in their early stages can be best grown by using other conservation tillage practices, like a combination of strip-till with no-till areas [31].

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Also, crops which harvestable portion grows underground can have better results with strip-tillage, mainly in soils which are hard for plant roots to penetrate into deeper layers to access water and nutrients. The benefits provided by no-tillage to predators may lead to larger predator populations [32] , which is a good way to control pests biological control , but also can facilitate predation of the crop itself.

In corn crops, for instance, predation by caterpillars can be higher in no-till than in conventional tillage fields [33].



In places with rigorous winter, no-tilled soil can take longer to warm and dry in spring, which may delay planting to less ideal dates [34] [35]. Another factor to be considered is that organic residue from the previous years crops laying on the surface of no-tilled fields can provide a favorable environment to pathogens, helping to increase the risk of transmitting diseases to the future crop. And because no-till farming provides good environment for pathogens, insects and weeds, it can lead farmers to a more intensive use of chemicals for pest control.

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Other disadvantages of no-till include underground rot, low soil temperatures and high moisture. Based on the balance of these factors, and because each farm has different problems, agroecologists will not atest that only no-till or complete tillage is the right way of farming. In fact, these are not the only possible choices regarding soils preparation, since there are intermediate practices such as strip-till, mulch-till and ridge-till, all of them - just as no-till - categorized as conservation tillage.

Agroecologists, then, will evaluate the need of different practices for the contexts in which each farm is inserted. Can the farm minimize environmental impacts and increase its level of sustainability; for instance by efficiently increasing the productivity of the crops to minimize land use? Does this way of farming sustain good quality of life for the farmers, their families, rural labor and rural communities involved?

The principles of agroecology are expressed differently depending on local ecological and social contexts. Latin America's experiences with North American Green Revolution agricultural techniques have opened space for agroecologists. Traditional or indigenous knowledge represents a wealth of possibility for agroecologists, including "exchange of wisdoms.

Most of the historical farming in Madagascar has been conducted by indigenous peoples. The French colonial period disturbed a very small percentage of land area, and even included some useful experiments in sustainable forestry. Slash-and-burn techniques, a component of some shifting cultivation systems have been practised by natives in Madagascar for centuries.

EE 101: "Sustainable Farming through Agroecology" by Stephen Gliessman with Mark Bittman

As of some of the major agricultural products from slash-and-burn methods are wood, charcoal and grass for Zebu grazing. These practices have taken perhaps the greatest toll on land fertility since the end of French rule, mainly due to overpopulation pressures. Agriculture Agriculture in Concert with the Environment Agroecological restoration Agroecosystem Agroecosystem analysis Agronomy Agrophysics applied ecology biodynamics biological pest control Community-supported agriculture Conventional agriculture dynamic equilibrium Ecology Ecology of contexts Edaphology Environmental economics Environmental impact assessment Extensive farming Farmer Field School FFS forest gardening food desert Food sovereignty food security Food systems Genetic Erosion Homeodynamic agriculture Intercropping industrial agriculture Integrated Pest Management intensive farming Landscape Ecology Life cycle analysis Malnutrition Managed intensive grazing Masanobu Fukuoka Permaculture pollinator decline Polyculture Monoculture organic agriculture Rural Sociology secondary succession Shifting cultivation Sociology Soil Science Traditional Knowledge Urban Agriculture.

Home What is Ecology? What is Agroecology? Agroecology as a science, a movement or a practice. A review. Agricultural sustainability: concepts, principles and evidence. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, , Agroecosystem analysis. Agricultural Administration, 20, Ann Arbor: Sleeping Bear Press, Crop ecology and ecological crop geography in the agronomic curriculum. A quantitative and qualitative historical analysis of the scientific discipline agroecology.

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International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 7 1 : Gustav Fischer Verlag, Jena, Germany, pp. Verlagsbuchhandlung Paul Parey, Berlin, Germany, and pp. Approaches to assess the environmental impact of organic farming with particular regard to Denmark.

Environmental impact assessment of conventional and organic milk production. Livestock Production Science.

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Vol 80, p 69— Animal health and welfare in organic livestock production in Europe: current state and future challenges. Vol 80, p 41— Eleven years of organic dairy production in Denmark: herd health and production related to time of conversion and compared to conventional production. Livestock production science. Vol 80, p Principles of Conservation Management. No Tillage-Farming Ch.