Professional Development Program






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

Definitions of Agroecology

At its most basic level agroecology addresses the various functions of landscapes and the concept of agriculture as part of a larger natural and social system. As such, it integrates aspects of ecology, agronomy, culture and society, and economics. Click on the links below to read definitions of agroecology from two noted researchers.
Stephen Gliessman Definition
Miguel Altieri Definition

Stephen Gliessman:

Agroecology is defined as “the application of ecological concepts and principles to the design and management of sustainable food systems.” From Agroecology: The Ecology of Sustainable Food Systems (2nd Edition). Stephen Gliessman. CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group, Boca Raton, FL. 2007.

Miguel Altieri:

“The term agroecology has come to mean many things. Loosely defined, agroecology often incorporates ideas about a more environmentally and socially sensitive approach to agriculture, one that focuses not only on production, but also on the ecological sustainability of the production systems. This might be called the ‘normative’ or ‘prescriptive’ use of the term agroecology, because it implies a number of features about society and production that go well beyond the limits of the agricultural field….Agroecology focuses on ecological relations in the field, and its purpose is to illuminate the form, dynamics and function of these relations.”

From Agroecology: The Science of Sustainable Agriculture (2nd Edition). Miguel Altieri with contributions by John Farrell, Susanna Hecht, Matt Liebman, Fred Magdoff, Bill Murphy, Richard Norgaard and Thomas Sikor. Westview Press, Boulder, CO. 1995.

Why use agroecology as our framework for this course? In short, agroecology emphasizes a whole-systems approach to agriculture – a concept that is quite consistent with our definition of sustainable agriculture. Although the term agroecology was coined in the 1920s, agroecology as a field of study did not emerge until the 1970s. There are now agroecology teaching and research programs at many colleges and universities across the country. Perhaps there is an agroecology program or degree major at your university.
Examples of University-based Agroecology Programs in the United States
Examples of University-based Agroecology Programs in the United States
University of California Santa Cruz, Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems
University of Wisconsin, Agroecology Program
University of Wyoming, Agroecology Degree Program
Penn State, Agroecology Major
University of Illinois, Sustainable Agriculture and Agroecology
In addition to these agroecology programs, scores of university-level agroecology courses are offered as part of agriculture and crop science degree programs.
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