Humans have destroyed hundreds of millions of square miles of ecosystems to plant annual agricultural plants since the beginning of modern human civilization. In order to grow annual plants, one must eradicate the perennial vegetative cover first in order to expose the soil for the planting of annual seeds. In many places this means plowing up a perennial grassland in order to plant wheat or corn. In other places it first means eradicating a forest, then plowing the soil to plant annual crops. The growing of annual crops requires the eradication of an intact, perennial ecosystem in order to grow seeds. Tilling the soil exposes it to the elements. Exposed soil blows away in the wind. Its organic matter and mineral are oxidized by the sun rendering them useless for plant fertility needs. Tilling dries out the soil helping to stimulate drought conditions. Tilled soil is exposed to the rain and when uncovered washes away in muddy streams with every storm. Little by little precious fertile soil vanishes until all that remains is the bleached skeleton of the planet.
The reduction in soil fertility and depth of our topsoil may not be noticeable even in one lifetime, but over decades and centuries the cumulative loss of topsoil means a loss of nutrition for the people living off that land. Loss of nutrition also goes with decreased yields. Decreased yields and nutrition lead to hunger, disease, social strife and eventually collapse.
Ecosystem destruction has immense consequences. Hydrological cycles in the soil and on the land have been altered With less moisture being transpired into the atmosphere by perennial vegetation, rainfall patterns have changed. The lost forests and prairies no longer inhale carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to give us back life-giving oxygen. Increased atmospheric carbon dioxide preceded an increase in the number and intensity of tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, record-breaking heat, drought and is blamed for the melting of the polar ice caps.
Many believe that it is too late for humanity to change its direction and hence to change the pattern of ecosystem destruction that threatens us all. It is time our modern culture adopts a new approach to how we obtain our staple food crops — our carbohydrates, proteins and oils. This can be done by creating agricultural ecosystems that imitate natural systems in form and function while still providing for our human needs.
Shouldn’t we be taking nature’s advice and designing our farms to be self-supporting while giving farmers the tools to manage the ecosystem through the changes in vegetation through time?
We think so!
Restoration agriculture isn’t about restoring ‘historical’ plant species but instead presents an opportunity to farm in nature’s image while producing recognizable, marketable products with large, consistent markets.
We are breaking down the dichotomy of ecological restoration and agricultural production to design and install a biome-appropriate agriculture system for each region. This is ecosystem mimicry in agriculture. Someday each biome will have its own agricultural systems in place on the ground — complete with Ph.D. level research.
Through active ecosystem design, development and management, RAD is redesigning agriculture in nature’s image.