Professional Development Program






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Unit 2: Applying Ecological Principles

Concept of Key Practices

Grass filter strip on a farm in Carroll County, Iowa. (Lynn Betts, USDA NRCS)
Since there is such a diverse range of farming and ranching systems in the United States, an important question in planning this course was how to bring some focus to it. It would be impossible to address all the many production strategies that farmers are using to maintain and strengthen the ecological balance within their operations. A comprehensive treatment of those topics would take years of study!
As a way of dealing with this challenge, we will be using the concept of key practices in sustainable agriculture. This approach will allow us to highlight those core management strategies that provide the foundation for most sustainable farming and ranching systems in the US, strategies that are supported by both research and the field experience of farmers and ranchers nationwide.
After you have completed this unit of the course, you will have a general knowledge of the basic techniques for managing sustainable agroecosystems. Throughout, we provide links for you to explore topics and practices in greater depth. Lastly, keep in mind that every practice discussed in this unit has been modified and adapted in thousands of ways to fit the context, environment, and needs of different farm and ranch systems.
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