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Extension Opinion No: 18: The future is in managing bio systems

It was once common knowledge that the world was flat, and later, that the universe revolved around the Earth. Those are fallacies from long ago, but what about the myths of this century? Wasn't it just a few years ago that Pluto was a planet, and the Brontosaurus was a dinosaur?  In The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date, Samuel Arbesman, Kauffman Foundation senior scholar, explains that knowledge should never be assumed, and facts never taken for granted.

Looking at the energy input-output of the “green revolution”, Herwig Pommeresche shows the decline of efficiency from 1910 (one unit energy in equals one unit energy out) to 1971 (one unit energy in equals 0.2 (one fifth) energy out!  An organic garden is 2500 times more efficient than the farmer with his tractor, fertilizer and pest control chemicals.

The permaculture, agro-ecology, bio-dynamic and general farmers that break away, using less and less input products fall into the category of growing their produce organically (from within; without external aid; “just sunshine and water”).  For any spectator there seems no cohesion between all the “different” approaches.  Climbing into the ring the rules start to become clearer.  All these farmers try to find their own way of reaping the benefits of nature.  No synthetics, no GM.
“Agriculture is sustainable when it maintains the capital within the systems involved while achieving its other goals, including productivity and profit. Most ecosystems will require regeneration work and fundamental redesign to enable us to manage much more complex systems and be much more precise in where and when we do things, much of this redesign being aimed at reaping the benefits of nature’s natural synergy and mutualism.” – (Stuart B. Hill;  University of Western Sydney 1996.)

Science shows clearly that the future is not in “technology”, but is hidden in managing bio-systems, that is: the future is in biology.  Most of the agricultural research up to know needs to be revisited and its conclusions scrutinized under the “biological” magnifier in order to find the appropriate management approach towards a systems driven agriculture.  No wheel need to be re-invented.

In short:  South African farmers spend R 10 billion on input products.  This can be reduced by at least 60% (experiences of Agro-ecology and Organic agriculture in practises for over 30 years) making room for a management support service.  How would such influence extension services?

This is my guess, having an intimate understanding of such a systems driven approach that we would have to provide for the following:
  • Management support by government:  Financial, fixed asset and equipment management support.  Management training and supervision.
  • Management support by private sector:  Monitoring of systems scientifically and translating such data captured into appropriate management reports directing pro-active tasks.
  • Research by government:  Linked into such agriculture at grass roots level and initiated  / supported by monitoring data.
  • Market support by private sector:  The monitoring of systems adds another perspective and that is that of food security.  At any stage of growing cycles the harvest can be predicted fairly accurately and thus can add to market efficiencies.

Historian Jeffrey Burton Russell says the flat earth error flourished most between 1870 and 1920, and had to do with the ideological setting created by struggles over evolution. Russell claims 'with extraordinary [sic] few exceptions no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the earth was flat', and credits histories by John William Draper, Andrew Dickson White, and Washington Irving for popularizing the flat-earth myth. – Wikipedia:  Myth of the flat earth.

Studying R.H. Francé, H.P. Rusch, M Fukuoka, T. Higa, L. Margulis, H. Schanderl, R. Steiner, H. Pommeresche and other sources on the internet on agro-ecology, organic agriculture, permaculture you will sooner rather than later understand that there is a flaw in the “green revolution”.

History confirms that no change can happen overnight, but those prepared benefited the most.  The reason for my contribution is to create room for organic agriculture and argue that you need to look closely at extension systems which will take us in the direction of an approach indicated above.  
Hans E Klink is marketing director of Agro-Organics.  He contributes energies to the SA Organic Sector Organisation, the Organic Sector Strategy Implementation Committee, the SA Biopesticide Assocciation and CropLifeSA crop liaison committee.

Click the image for a view of: Organic agriculture: The face of the future?
Organic agriculture: The face of the future?
Posted: 10/1/2012 (12:07:21 PM)


 "To add to this opinion, I agree first that “Science shows clearly that the future is not in technology, but is hidden in managing bio-systems”, I think this can be well taken through via education as a starting point, the injection of organic agricu"
John Polepole S. / UKZN-AERRM Posted: 10/4/2012 6:41:13 AM

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