I think that integration of organic and conventional
agriculture is an oxymoron (A rhetorical figure in which
incongruous or contradictory terms are combined, as in
/a deafening silence/). Organic(sustainable)agriculture
will survive only if it keeps at arms length from
conventional chemical based agriculture.
The closer one gets to the biology, the more alike are these systems*.
But even if you do want to keep "organic" farming holy and untainted by
"conventional" farming, that says little about how to get the research
done institutionally. My question was how to integrate the *research*
not the systems.
For example, if I am a bean breeder, I probably make many crosses, do
some early generation selection among F2 families, and then do
single-seed-descent to make a diverse set of pure lines. These are
tested in small plots in multiple locations as potential new varieties.
By doing some of these trials at a set of representative organic
sites, an "organic" breeding program can be piggy-backed onto the
conventional breeding program. This is far more efficient than
building an independent organic breeding program. What is needed
institutionally is leadership and unity to make this happen.
Emphasizing differences and partisanship is a mistake.
Organic agriculture programs may co-exist in agricultural
faculties in a university only so long as there is mutual
respect for true academic freedom.
Academic freedom is universally important if anything new is to be done
in science. In my experience tenure committees and journal editors are
most impressed by detailed biological work. At that level, the
difference between "organic" and "conventional" systems is small.
Applied scientists need to formulate research work that has both
applied and basic aspects in order to find money from both basic and
applied sources, and to gain status in the academy. Rather than basic
research with an applied tail, why not have basic research with TWO
applied tails, conventional and organic? Again, the way to do this is
not to emphasize differences, but to look for commonalities.
Grant money will have to be portioned out to organic
agriculture in proportion to the market share of the
As organic production comprises a larger market share, more money is
available for applied research on organic systems. I can assure you
this is happening in private industry as well as academia.
not the whims of academic bureaucrats who have no real
appreciation of what organic (sustainable) agriculture is.
In the long run it may be most rational to sequester organic
(sustainable) agriculture in research institutes and liberal
arts colleges who are free of the groping paws of academic
bureaucrats (vp, deans and department chars) who dance to
the tunes of the chemical industry.
I think you are exaggerating the power of the administrators. When I
was at the university doing research and finding grant money, the
granting agencies called the shots, often refusing to pay indirect
costs. The administrators acquiesced. In applied ag research, the
granting agency is almost always a consortium of farmers (eg. commodity
commission) or an industry group (such as the American Seed Research
Foundation). They get whatever kind of research they specify.
Generally, federal government money (of any magnitude) is given to do
research so basic that it applies to both organic and conventional
I truly fear that the "organic" programs in land grant
universities will siphon off research grants destined
for organic agriculture and use if for public relations
to promote genetically modified crops as being "organic".
I think the fear is mostly groundless. In my experience the PI has to
explain to the granting agency in detail what they are going to do with
the money (unless it is some big pork-barrel legislation!). University
administrators don't care what you do with the money, as long as it
keeps coming in and you get papers out. If grant money is available
for applied research in organic farming, the research will get done.
Of course it may be done poorly. The way to do a good job is to
synergize with existing research.
The idea that organic systems are SO different from conventional
systems that you need a whole different set of researchers, labs, and
administrators is something driven by the bureaucracy, not the needs of
organic farmers. It is not sustainable.
*Most pesticides are minor tweaks. Other things such as planting date,
adaptation of the variety, tillage, slope, land-use, monoculture, and
drainage have more profound effects on the environment and plant growth
than ag chemicals. It is a mystery to me why so many see the
organic/non-organic dichotomy as THE central issue in sustainability,
especially given the socially driven nature of "organic" standards.
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