What is Agroecology?
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Biodiversity in Agriculture
Biodiversity is an essential feature of healthy ecosystems. Biodiversity in agriculture promotes ecosystem services such as soil quality, weed suppression, and pollination. However, some composition of biodiversity may be detrimental to production and stability for target crop species in agricultural systems. We are working to identify all of the plant species at the Tropical Research and Education Center to understand the composition of the agroecosystem at the research station. We also conduct regular plant diversity surveys to monitor the impacts of biodiversity on the diverse selection of cropping systems at the research station.
Sustainability in agriculture requires an understanding of the regional connectedness of farms and their surrounding areas. Whether a farm is surrounded by natural or urban area, the surrounding neighborhood uniquely effects the external pressures affecting farm dynamics and management. We are developing an agroecosystems experiment at TREC to understand the impact of surrounding areas on cropping systems. We are using cover crops to represent a simplified cropping system to evaluate crop physiology, weed suppression and soil amendment. The interaction among characteristics of the surrounding area, such as plant diversity, with the cropping system will begin to uncover important agroecosystem-level drivers and dynamics.
Sustainable Cropping Systems
Aflatoxins are produced by molds that contaminate many staple crops, such as peanut. Aflatoxin contamination is a common source of crop loss in peanut production, storage, and processing due to the public health risks of aflatoxin ingestion. With collaborators across the University of Florida and Georgia State University, I am working to understand the vulnerabilities to aflatoxin contamination in peanut across the food system. Target areas of the project include adaptive water management on peanut farms and advanced imaging technologies to identify aflatoxin contamination in harvested and stored peanuts.
Industrial hemp has been identified as a potentially valuable and impactful alternative crop for Florida. To support the future viability and sustainability of a hemp industry, preliminary assessment of the crop and cropping systems must be established prior to commercialization. With a statewide research team across the University of Florida, we have proposed the UF Industrial Hemp Pilot Project to identify hemp germplasm appropriate for Florida’s diverse environmental and agronomic conditions, to develop cropping systems that serve a diverse range of hemp industries, and to assess and mitigate hemp invasion risk.
The Agroecosystem Concept
Agroecosystems are described by the interacting features of environmental and ecological characteristics of a farm and the surrounding area. Agroecosystems are complex and challenging to manage. The agroecology framework that can help improve the sustainable management of agriculture and natural resources through the agroecosystem concept. “The Agroecosystem Concept” Extension program is a set of trainings aimed at county agriculture and natural resources agents and their stakeholders to increase the visibility of and engagement with agroecosystems. Participants should aspire to develop management strategies that improve environmental and economic outcomes of cropping systems from an understanding of the environmental and ecological characteristics of an agroecosystem.
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