Archive for Wednesday, March 7, 1990


March 7, 1990


Agriculture must be united with ecology in order to preserve agricultural viability and avoid ecological disaster, the director of an ecological land institute said Tuesday at Kansas University.

Wes Jackson, director of The Land Institute in Salina, said people must learn how to use "natural" agriculture rather than continue to create "monoculture" fields that contain single crops, which yield only once a year.

"To acknowledge that agriculture comes out of nature rather than to understand (agriculture) in its own terms may be hard, but that is precisely what we must do if agricultural sustainability is to become a reality," he said.

JACKSON SPOKE to about 500 people in the Kansas Union on "An End to Agriculture?" His lecture was the last in a series of environmental crisis lectures sponsored by Student Union Activities Forums and the Environmental Studies Programs at KU.

Jackson said environmental destruction will continue if methods of modern agriculture continue. He said many "necessities" of modern agriculture such as large harvesting machinery, pesticides and the goal of "maximum" yield are harmful to people and the land in the long run.

"If you look at a wheat field or a corn field or a soybean field, it's fossil fuel dependent, and if it's on sloping ground there's going to be erosion, and it will probably be chemical dependent," he said.

"On the other hand, if you look at unplowed native prairie . . . it runs on sunlight, it actually accumulates soil and it has species diversity. With species diversity you've got chemical diversity."

JACKSON SAID more small-scale, multicrop farms would be more productive, environmentally safe and could even provide farmers a profit comparable to what they now receive from large, one-crop farms.

"We really have four basic questions: Can perenniallism and high yield go together? Can a polyculture outyield a monoculture? Can we get such a system to sponsor it's own nitrogen fertility? . . . and our fourth problem deals with insects and weeds," he said.

Jackson said those questions have been answered with encouraging results from projects conducted at The Land Institute during the last eight years.

However, he said, people must become locally involved.

"We keep talking about global consciousness. It's not possible to save the planet. It's not possible to have global consciousness. Those are abstractions. You need to think in terms of particulars," he said.

Jackson said universities should not teach from an "extracting economy" viewpoint, which has caused many environmental problems. In this outdated view, he said, people think of the earth as a mine rather than home.

"Our universities are turning out people that head straight for Washington or Wall Street, instead of becoming explorers and discovering something for themselves," he said.

Jackson received his master's degree in botany from KU in 1958.

The Land Institute, opened in 1976, is dedicated to finding sustainable alternatives to agriculture and waste management.

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