Professional Development Program






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Unit 1: Basic Ecological Concepts and Principles Related to Agricultural Systems


Ongoing research in soil and pest management has shown that we can enhance the sustainability of agricultural systems by trying to work with, and not against, the basic ecological relationships and processes that exist within the system. By increasing our knowledge of how ecosystems work—particularly their structure and function—we can better manage the production side of the business and successfully integrate the three goals of profitability, environmental stewardship, and community health and vitality.
A number of long-term agricultural systems research programs are revealing more about how we can better manage the ecological aspects of farms and ranches to promote sustainability. Here’s a list if you want to explore further:
Michigan State W.K. Kellogg Biological Station
Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trials
UC Davis Russell Ranch Project 
Farming Systems Research Unit, North Carolina State University, Center for Environmental Farming Systems

Structure: “The most basic structural components of ecosystems are biotic factors, living organisms that interact in the environment, and abiotic factors, nonliving physical and chemical components of the environment such as soil, light, moisture and temperature.” Gliessman (2007)

Function: “Ecosystem function refers to the dynamic processes occurring within ecosystems: the movement of matter and energy and the interactions and relationships of the organisms and materials in the system. It is important to understand these processes in order to address the concepts of ecosystem dynamics, efficiency, productivity and development, especially in agroecosystems where function can determine the difference between the success and failure of a particular crop or management practice.” Gliessman (2007)

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