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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Predicting Impacts of Climate Change on Agricultural Systems and Developing Potentials for Adaptation

Location: Plant Physiology and Genetics Research

Title: Book review: Darwinian agriculture: How understanding evolution can improve agriculture by R. Ford Dennison

Author
item WHITE, JEFFREY

Submitted to: Field Crops Research
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: September 4, 2013
Publication Date: November 16, 2013
Citation: White, J.W. 2013. Book review: Darwinian agriculture: How understanding evolution can improve agriculture by R. Ford Dennison. Field Crops Research. 154:126.

Interpretive Summary: Agricultural research continually seeks to increase productivity while protecting soil, water and genetic resources. The book Darwinian Agriculture: How Understanding Evolution Can Improve Agriculture, by R. Ford Dennison, delivers a thought-provoking view of how principles of ecology and evolution can be applied to agriculture. Three principles are emphasized in the book: 1) Natural selection has produced near-optimal solutions for many problems, so further advances are likely to involve tradeoffs. 2) Persistence of organisms under competition provides more reliable evidence of superior performance than persistence in the absence of competition. 3) Diversity provides a valuable hedge against the uncertainties that abound in agroecosystems. After outlining the principles, the author discusses their application in specific cases such as perennial cereal crops and genetic engineering. The book is written in an accessible style making it of interest to a wide audience of potential readers ranging from undergraduates to members of the general public who are interested in agriculture. This book review thus should allow interested people decide whether to read the book or to seek alternate sources of information.

Technical Abstract: Agricultural research continually seeks to increase productivity while protecting soil, water and genetic resources. The book Darwinian Agriculture: How Understanding Evolution Can Improve Agriculture, by R. Ford Dennison, delivers a thought-provoking view of how principles of ecology and evolution can be applied to agriculture. Three principles are emphasized in the book: 1) Natural selection has produced near-optimal solutions for many problems, so further advances are likely to involve tradeoffs. 2) Persistence of organisms under competition provides more reliable evidence of superior performance than persistence in the absence of competition. 3) Diversity provides a valuable hedge against the uncertainties that abound in agroecosystems. After outlining the principles, the author discusses their application in specific cases such as perennial cereal crops and genetic engineering. The book is written in an accessible style making it of interest to a wide audience of potential readers ranging from undergraduates to members of the general public who are interested in agriculture. This book review thus should allow interested people decide whether to read the book or to seek alternate sources of information.

Last Modified: 9/29/2014
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