Darwinian Agriculture: How Understanding Evolution Can Improve Agriculture

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Princeton University Press, 2012 - Science - 258 pages
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As human populations grow and resources are depleted, agriculture will need to use land, water, and other resources more efficiently and without sacrificing long-term sustainability. Darwinian Agriculture presents an entirely new approach to these challenges, one that draws on the principles of evolution and natural selection.


R. Ford Denison shows how both biotechnology and traditional plant breeding can use Darwinian insights to identify promising routes for crop genetic improvement and avoid costly dead ends. Denison explains why plant traits that have been genetically optimized by individual selection--such as photosynthesis and drought tolerance--are bad candidates for genetic improvement. Traits like plant height and leaf angle, which determine the collective performance of plant communities, offer more room for improvement. Agriculturalists can also benefit from more sophisticated comparisons among natural communities and from the study of wild species in the landscapes where they evolved.



Darwinian Agriculture reveals why it is sometimes better to slow or even reverse evolutionary trends when they are inconsistent with our present goals, and how we can glean new ideas from natural selection's marvelous innovations in wild species.


 

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Contents

Chapter 1 Repaying Darwins Debt to Agriculture
1
Chapter 2 What Do We Need from Agriculture?
9
The Power of Natural Selection
28
Chapter 4 Darwinian Agricultures Three Core Principles
43
Tradeoffblind Biotechnology
54
Chapter 6 Selfish Genes Sophisticated Plants and Haphazard Ecosystems
76
Misguided Mimicry of Natural Ecosystems
95
Improving Cooperation within Species
120
Chapter 10 Stop Evolution Now
164
Chapter 11 Learning from Plants Ants and Ecosystems
177
Chapter 12 Diversity Bethedging and Selection among Ideas
190
Acknowledgments
217
Glossary
219
References
227
Index
249
Copyright

Cooperation between Two Species
145

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About the author (2012)

R. Ford Denison is adjunct professor of ecology, evolution, and behavior at the University of Minnesota and taught crop ecology at the University of California, Davis.

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