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Agroecology and Organic Farming as Approaches to Reducing the Environmental Impacts of Agricultural Chemicals

Agroecological approaches to food production, including organic farming, rely on improved understanding of ecological principles and their application to the management of agroecosystems in order to reduce agrochemical use and improve the environmental impact of the production systems. Agroecological approaches place increased reliance on biological processes such as symbiotic nitrogen fixation, biological control of pests and pathogens, species and habitat diversity, and closer integration of crop and livestock production, to achieve productivity, health, environmental and financial objectives. In most cases they are associated with positive environmental impacts in terms of biodiversity, resource use and emissions, but with potential trade-offs against productivity, particularly where certain inputs are avoided completely, as in the case of organic farming. In such cases, there are also potentially negative impacts on profitability, but these can be mitigated through the use of specialist markets for organic products and through agri-environmental support or payments for ecosystem services. In the longer term, there is potential for both the environmental benefits and productivity of such systems to be enhanced through research, education and knowledge exchange, engaging practitioners directly, with an increased emphasis on ecological innovation alongside the more traditional focus on technological innovation.

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30 Sep 2016
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