AGROECOLOGY IN JAPAN AND THE AMERICAS: HISTORY, PRACTICE AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS (1-5PM, April 26): Abstracts

1:00-1:10 Welcoming Remarks

1:10-1:40 Miguel Altieri (UC Berkeley): Agroecological Restoration at Multiple Scales: From Farm to Landscape

Agroecosystems are embedded in landscapes and their performance depends on the quality of the matrix surrounding crop fields. Many small scale peasant farming systems contain plots embedded in natural or secondary forest communities.  In such situations the surrounding landscape determines to a large degree  the levels of  biodiversity  in local agroecosystems. In many rural communities crop-production units and adjacent ecosystems often are all integrated into a single agroecosystem. Many peasants utilize, maintain, and preserve within or adjacent to their properties, areas of natural ecosystems (forests, hillsides, lakes, grasslands, stream ways, swamps, etc.) that contribute valuable food supplements, construction materials, medicines, organic fertilizers, fuels, religious items, etc. Agroecological restoration of landscapes via soil conservation, revegetation with agroforestry patterns, water harvesting and other practices is a key strategy to allow agriculture to thrive again in highly degraded watersheds.

1:40-2:10 Kazumasa Hidaka (Ehime University): An Agroecological Approach towards Sustainable Farming Practice in Japan: Lessons from Satoyama and Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Japan is an island country that narrowly stretches from north to south. The majority of its land is covered with forests and mountains.  Given these geographic characteristics, farmers of the Japanese archipelago have historically developed intricate landscapes, in which small patches of agricultural fields have carefully been managed and maintained. Because trade during the Edo period (17th-19th Cent.) was limited, self-sufficient systems of resource utilization, including the production and acquisition of food, clothing and housing, was the foundation of the Japanese economic systems, based on which intricate satoyama landscapes that involved dialectical relationships between humans and the environment were developed.   Since the 1970s, however three major problems, have been threatening Japanese agricultural systems: 1) An increasing reliance on external input that led to the loss of agricultural biodiversity; 2) A decrease in agricultural ecosystem services, including those in satoyama, as a result of agricultural intensification with too much fertilizer and pesticide, together with a heavy reliance on heavy machinery; 3) Loss of cultural diversity in local communities and a decrease in sustainability of these communities as a result of the decline of traditional agricultural practice and food systems. Agroecology, which was originally introduced into Japan during the early 1980s, can play a vital role to change these negative spirals of agricultural production and consumption.  Focusing on three case studies in which I have been actively involved, this presentation emphasizes the need to reevaluate the importance of traditional agricultural knowledge and of human intervention for the maintenance of biodiversity.  Creative applications of agroecological principles to the Japanese contexts are needed for long-term sustainability of satoyama systems.

 

2:10-2:40 Junko Habu (UC Berkeley): Traditional Knowledge, Small-scale Organic Farming and the Consumer Movement in Post-WWII Japan: Continuity and Change in Social and Agricultural Landscapes

2:40-3:00 Tea Break

3:00-3:30 Joji Muramoto (Department of Environmental Studies, UCSC): Agroecology in California Strawberries: A Vision for the Post-Methyl Bromide Era

DSCN0275Methyl bromide (MB) fumigation for controlling soil-borne diseases and weeds had been the core technology for California strawberry production since the 1960s. Due to its ozone depleting characteristics, however, MB was phased out in use for California strawberries under the Montreal Protocol in 2017. In response, conventional strawberry growers increased the use of other fumigants such as chloropicrin and 1,3-dichloropropane, that are not ozone layer depletors, but less effective compared to MB. At the same time, organic strawberry production in CA is increasing; in 2018, it exceeded 10 % of total California strawberry acreages for the first time. Managing soil-borne diseases in organic strawberry systems is a challenge, but some agroecological practices such as crop rotation and anaerobic soil disinfestation look promising. This presentation explores how agroecology can contribute to soil-borne disease management in organic and conventional strawberry production in California and discusses possible future directions of soil-based open field strawberry production in California.

3:30-4:00 Clara Ines Nicholls (UC Berkeley): Designing Climate-Change-Resilient Farms

Adaptation to climate change is considered a key factor that will shape the future severity of climate change impacts on food production. Changes that will not radically modify the monoculture nature of dominant agroecosystems may moderate negative impacts temporarily. The biggest and most durable benefits will likely result from more radical agroecological measures that will strengthen the resilience of farmers and rural communities, such as diversification of agroecosytems in the form of polycultures, agroforestry systems, and crop-livestock mixed systems accompanied by organic soil management, water conservation and harvesting, and general enhancement of agrobiodiversity. Traditional farming systems are repositories of a wealth of principles and measures that can help modern agricultural systems become more resilient to climatic extremes. Many of these agroecological strategies that reduce vulnerabilities to climate variability include crop diversification, maintaining local genetic diversity, animal integration, soil organic management, water conservation and harvesting, etc. Understanding the agroecological features that underlie the resilience of traditional agroecosystems is an urgent matter, as they can serve as the foundation for the design of adapted agricultural systems. Observations of agricultural performance after extreme climatic events (hurricanes and droughts) in the last two decades have revealed that resiliency to climate disasters is closely linked to farms with increased levels of biodiversity. Field surveys and results reported in the literature suggest that agroecosystems are more resilient when inserted in a complex landscape matrix, featuring adapted local germplasm deployed in diversified cropping systems managed with organic matter rich soils and water conservation-harvesting techniques. The identification of systems that have withstood climatic events recently or in the past and understanding the agroecological features of such systems that allowed them to resist and/or recover from extreme events is of increased urgency, as the derived resiliency principles and practices that underlie successful farms can be disseminated to thousands of farmers via Campesino a Campesino networks to scale up agroecological practices that enhance the resiliency of agroecosystems. The effective diffusion of agroecological technologies will largely determine how well and how fast farmers adapt to climate change.

4:00-5:00 Discussion

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