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September 22, 1997

New textbook teaches principles of agroecology

Stephen Gliessman

By Jennifer McNulty

Environmental studies professor Stephen Gliessman is an internationally recognized leader in the field of agroecology, and this fall for the first time, students around the world will benefit from his expertise when they peruse the pages of his new agroecology textbook.

Gliessman's book, Agroecology: Ecological Processes in Sustainable Agriculture (Chelsea, MI: Ann Arbor Press, 1997), is geared toward undergraduates in agroecology or sustainable agriculture, but it can also be adapted for use in a range of environmental science, natural resource management, and even basic ecology courses.

"After all these years of trying to get around to it, I'm really pleased to have the book coming out this fall," said Gliessman. "I think it will really expand awareness of the field of agroecology."

Gliessman defines agroecology as the application of ecological concepts and principles to the design and management of sustainable agroecosystems. The ecosystem approach provides a framework within which advocates of sustainable agriculture determine how particular practices, inputs, or management decisions affect the long-term goal of sustainability, and it emphasizes the ecological basis of decision making.

Broader than organic agriculture, sustainable agriculture emphasizes growing methods that can be used indefinitely. In the final analysis, it seeks to incorporate social justice and factors beyond the bottom line into its long-term vision, said Gliessman.

"Agroecosystems represent the coevolution between a culture and its environment, and true sustainability lies in the balance between the two," said Gliessman.

Gliessman, who is the Alfred E. Heller Professor of Agroecology at UCSC, is uniquely qualified to write a textbook on agroecology. He has more than 25 years of teaching, research, and farm production experience and has worked internationally in tropical and temperate climates, on small and large farms, in traditional and conventional farm management, and with organic to synthetic chemicals.

The book is divided into four sections, described below:

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