Solutions to California drought woes may be found in agroecology

Aug 11, 2014

The emerging science of agroecology may help scientists find answers to rising challenges facing California agriculture, most immediately the three-year drought, wrote Tom Tomich and Marcia DeLonge in a op-ed published today in the Sacramento Bee. Tomich is the director of the UC Agricultural Sustainability Institute; DeLonge is an agroecologist with the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The op-ed was published as scientists around the world convene in Sacramento for the Ecological Society of America's annual meeting, where participants will discuss cutting-edge research for a sustainable future.

Agroecology has its roots in crop science and draws on ecology and social sciences to broaden the understanding of agriculture in a broader environmental and societal context, the article says. Several examples of successful agroecology programs are listed, including the UC Davis Russell Ranch, where scientists test an array of farming methods to determine their impact on yield, soil quality, irrigation requirements, energy use and greenhouse gass emissions; and the Marin Carbon Project, which brings together scientists, farmers ranchers and others to sustainably and profitably manage the region's grazing lands.

"So if agroecology shows such great promise, why does it receive a small fraction of available research funding?" the authors ask.

It's time for a change, they said. Investments today will help farmers and all Californians weather climate change and protect the food supply for tomorrow and for generations to come.

By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist