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Polyface Farm (Joel Salatin)

sustainable farm which replicates natural processes, reducing pesticide/fertilizer use by allowing chickens and pigs to work and eat manure (reduces pests, mixes compost), and reducing fossil fuel use through manure-straw-corn decomposing layers of warmth in winter (reduces machinery and pollution)


chronic hunger/not consuming enough calories to be healthy; leads to food deficit, decreased daily function, improper brain development, and low IQ


result of a diet which lacks the correct balance of nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals

food security

access to enough [nutritious] food to meet dietary needs for a healthy lifestyle (World Health Organization)

food insecurity

inadequate access to food due to its economic/social/physical availability


large number of deaths in a given area over a short period of time, due to food insecurity (5/10,000 per day; 18% annual mortality)


iron deficiency affecting 3 billion, caused by lack of dietary iron or disease


type of malnutrition caused by ingestion of too many calories and/or improper foods; increases risk of Type 2 diabetes/hypertension/heart disease/stroke; function of availability and affordability of [high-processed, nutrient-poor] foods


more than 20 percent above ideal body weight (300 million people)


second largest food source in human diet consisting of beef, veal, pork, lamb (livestock); chicken, turkey, duck (poultry)


seed-like fruits such as corn, rice, wheat, rye, and others; out of 50,000 edible plants, corn/rice/wheat makes up 60 percent of human energy intake

grain, meat, fish production per capita (correlation of meat consumption)

300 kg, 40 kg, 21 kg (increase in meat consumption per capita correlates with economic growth, both worldwide and in U.S.)


lack of resources that allows one access to food; primary reason for undernutrition and malnutrition

industrial agriculture (agribusiness)

applies industrial techniques such as mechanization and standardization to food production

energy subsidy

energy input per calorie of food produced; small-scale agriculture has less than large-scale, commercial agriculture

Green Revolution

20th century shift in farming methods which introduced mechanization (and monocrops) to agriculture, as well as fertilization, irrigation, and improved crop variety


favored in areas where fossil fuels are abundant, fuel prices are low, and labor prices are high; generally provides more profit to a farm, especially if it is larger and single-crop

economies of scale

the average cost of production falls as output increases; investments in mechanization are justified by higher
profits from larger areas of land and larger crop yields


the process of bringing water to arid areas which uses water more efficiently, increases crop growth rates, and enables otherwise impossible crop production; however, can draw down aquifers and promote saltwater intrusion into wells


small amount of salt in irrigation water becomes highly concentrated on soil surface after evaporation; eventually reaches toxic levels and halts plant growth


impairs root growth through lack of oxygen when soil remains under water for prolonged periods

organic fertilizer

returns nutrients to agricultural soils through spreading of organic matter (such as decomposing manure)

synthetic/inorganic fertilizer

commercially produced fertilizer which is easily applied, can be altered to target specific crops, and can be absorbed in poor soils; however, uses fossil fuel energy, is more susceptible to runoff and reduces oxygen levels in water, and doesn't add key organic matter to the soil

monocropping (monoculture)

large planting of single crop species or variety encouraged by mechanization of agriculture and use of synthetic fertilizers; efficient but leads to soil erosion and pest vulnerability


pesticide which targets insects and other crop-consuming invertebrates


pesticide which targets plant species that compete with crops


natural or synthetic substance which kills or controls organisms considered to be pests

broad-spectrum pesticide

pesticide which kills wide variety of pest types (ex., dimethoate)

selective (narrow-spectrum) pesticide

pesticide which kills fewer types of pests (ex., acequinocyl)

persistent (pesticide)

pesticide which remians in the environment for a long time and may consequently harm organisms other than intended targets (ex., DDT)

nonpersistent (pesticide)

pesticide which breaks down in weeks or months and has fewer long-term effects, but must be applied more often (ex., Roundup)


increased concentration of a chemical within an organism over time (ex.,through predatorial consumption of pesticide chemicals)


surviving individuals of a pesticide application who possess genetic immunity to the pesticide which can be passed down

pesticide treadmill

pests resistant to a pesticide gradually form larger and larger fractions of the population until the population is immune, requiring application of new pesticides and forming a positive feedback cycle

GMO (genetically modified organism)

organism possessing a specific gene injected into its DNA from another organism, which gives it desirable traits impossible to develop by traditional breeding techniques; benefits include increased crop yield/quality, less pesticide use, and increased profits; costs include reduction in biodiversity and questionable safety of consumption

conventional agriculture

widespread agriculture characterized by mechanization and standardization (a.k.a. industrial agricultural or agribusiness)

shifting agriculture

land is cleared ("slash-and-burn") and used until depleted of nutrients; prone to overuse and decline in soil productivity, oxidizes carbon leading to higher atmospheric CO2


dry, nutrient-poor soils are degraded by agricultural until they are completely unproductive; caused by salinization from irrigation and erosion from shallow-rooted annual plants

nomadic grazing

sustainable use of soils with low productivity which grazes animal herds over long distances through seasonally productive feeding grounds, allowing vegetation to regenerate

sustainable agriculture

farming which meets food/fiber productionneeds while improving soil quality, conserving nonrenewable resources, and giving farmers economic prosperity; agriculture on a given piece of land should be indefinite


two or more crop species are planted in the same field at the same time to promote beneficial interaction (ex., nitrogen fixers planted with nitrogen users.)

crop rotation

rotation of crop species in a field from season to season, preventing pest development and leaving nutrients for alternating crops


intercropping trees with vegetables, reducing erosion and providing fruit and firewood

contour plowing

plowing/harvesting parallel to topographic contours of land , preventing water erosion while retaining ability to plow

no-till agriculture

avoids soil degradation associated with conventional agricultural techniques through preserving soil horizons, preventing erosion, and reducing oxidation/CO2; however, increases use of herbicides

integrated pest management (IPM)

agricultural practice minimizing need for pesticide application while increasing yield through crop rotation, intercropping, pest-resistant crops, and predator habitat creation; pesticides used sparingly after careful observation in targeted method

organic agriculture

small farm production of crops without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, focusing on soil maintenance and environmental preservation; less likely to use no-till agriculture and uses fossil fuel

principles of organic agriculture

1) work with natural systems
2) retain organic matter and nutrients in soil
3) avoid synthetic fertilizer/pesticides
4) increase soil mass and biochemical properties
5) reduce agriculture's environmental effects

concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)

feedlots; large indoor/outdoor structures designed for for maximum output which confines animals; increases efficiency, but also increases waste runoff, manure buildup, and antibiotic-resistant microorganisms

free-range meat

meat produced more sustainably than that in CAFOs through natural grazing and open spaces, reduced use of antibiotics, and naturally dispersed manure; cons include more land required and higher cost


commercially harvestable population of fish within a particular ecological region

fishery collapse

decline of a fish population by 90 percent or more


unintentional catch of nontarget species (juveniles, non-commercials) which significantly reduces populations

individual transferable quotas (ITQs)

prevents fishery collapse, increases populations and harvest through sale/distribution of shares of the total allowable catch; reduces tragedy of the commons and overfishing


farming of aquatic organisms like fish, shellfish, and seaweed; could alleviate undernutrition and boost economy, but pumped wastewater contains pollutants and dangerous organisms, and escaped fish could compete, interbreed, or spread disease among wild fish populations

annual plant

plants which live for one season and must be replanted, disrupting the soil (ex., wheat, corn)

perennial plant

plants which live for multiple years; reduce soil disturbance, produce longer roots and emerge in early spring because of longer growing season, already established root systems allows more energy towards stem/fruit/seeds

Goals of Land Institute

to develop sustainable crops that provide sufficient amounts of food, reduce soil erosion and the need for synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation (How? conversion of annuals to perennials, domestication of wild perennials, selective breeding and technology)

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