Professional Development Program






PAGE 58 / 102

Unit 2: Applying Ecological Principles

Whole System Management

Throughout this course we have been stressing the concept of the agroecosystem and the need for an integrated approach to managing farms and ranches. So, after looking at management goals for soil, nutrients, water and pests separately, it is important that we step back for a moment to look at the system as a whole before beginning our exploration of specific crop production practices. The importance of this holistic view is captured in the following quote:
Whole system approach to soil and crop management
“[W]e need to learn to design farms, farming systems and landscapes to take advantage of the inherent strengths of natural systems, using minimal amounts of external interventions (inputs). Ideally, we would like to have agroecosystems that are productive but without the many negative ‘externalities’—or unwanted side effects—of conventional agriculture. We would like agricultural ecosystems to demonstrate characteristics of strong ecosystems—efficiency, diversity, self-sufficiency, self-regulation and resilience. The only way to really come close to reaching these goals is to view farms and fields as systems and approach them as such…. And we must remember, of course, that ecologically managed agricultural ecosystems, while mimicking strong natural ecosystems, are still purposefully disturbed systems that will not look or function the same as natural systems.”
Building Soils for Better Crops / Fred Madgoff and Harold Van Es
Click on the image to the right to explore this concept in greater depth.
PAGE 58 / 102