Re: Wes Jackson and Aldo Leopold (fwd)
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Date: Wed, 30 Mar 1994 05:32:21 -0800
From: Charles Benbrook <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Wes Jackson and Aldo Leopold (fwd)
Fear not Frank, both Wes and Aldo have been fully discovered, not just by the
sus. ag. community, but by many others. The definitive treatment of Leopold
is Curt Meine's superb biography, done as a PhD thesis for the Univ. of
Wisconisn, Land Res. Program. Curt is working now south of you, for the Crane
or some such group. His book was pub. by Univ. Wisconsin press; I wrote
a piece in the J. of Soil and Water Cons. on Leopold and sus. ag, which
Curt helped me with. Paul Johnson, the current head of the SCS, is a devoted
and deeply knowledgeful student of Leopold, and Wes I might add. There is the
Leopold Center for Sus Ag res. at Iowa continuing to do fine work...and the list
Wes's work on the ecology and the prairies has faced a more uphill
struggle, since the very precepts of his work is so inimical with the dominant
paradigm of modern agriculture. But still, Wes gets around, and his center
is carrying out solid work, which more and more people are coming to believe
in, as alternative models. There are many folks working close to the land that
have made wonderful contributions to the science, art, and culture of sus.
ag. Many wonder why has such progress, pointing so clearly to better ways to
farm, been kept in such a small corner of American agriculture?
Given the irrefutable evidence of the benefit of rotating corn
and soybeans -- average 15% increase in corn yields, no need for soil insecti-
cides except in rare instances, better weed control, etc -- why is 60% of corn
and nearly as much soybeans still grown continuously? The same acreage could
be planted, the same production, etc, etc by everyone rotating, but still the
majority do not. Why?
The answer is part of the answer to the question re why has the work of
Leopold, Jackson, Bezdicek, Thompson, and many others had such modest impact
on the majority of agriculture. In the years ahead, the sus. ag. community
will need to match political and institutional innovation and leadership with
its contributions down on the farm. Those benefiting from the status quo have
made it clear they will not accept change without a fight. Change is scary.
Someone we have to develop policies that make it less so.