Agroecology: Integrating ecology into practice and social change
It is in the sense of developing an intuitive understanding of how a particular ecosystem functions, that we employ basic ecological principles, or, broadly speaking, ecological theory. In the context of agriculture it is not suggested that ecological theory (or any other theory) will displace farmers’ knowledge, but rather that the same intuitive understanding that farmers normally utilize in planning and managing their farms may be merged and enriched with this theory. Today, much farmer knowledge is indeed combined with knowledge from science, but the bulk of that science comes from chemistry, which is perfectly fine as far as it goes. Yet the practice of agriculture is fundamentally an ecological practice and the appropriate scientific tool to aid and contribute to farmers’ knowledge is the science of ecology.
The appropriate implementation of ecological theory in agroecosystems has a rich history, especially in contributions from population and community ecology to agroecosystems broadly construed. The interplay of observations and problems in agroecosystems and the development of ecological theory has sometimes been only implicit, but at times the dialectic of agricultural production or sustainability versus ecological theory has been an open agenda.