A Failure of Diagnosis

I’ve just started reading parts of Yuval Levin’s The¬†Fractured Republic.

Early on he uses the phrase ‘a failure of diagnosis.’

American agriculture suffers from a serious ‘failure of diagnosis.’

In previous posts I’ve mentioned two approaches we hope will improve the ability to diagnose a specific agriculture in a specific place (…and, by the way, I think one of the most serious failures in agriculture is the tendency to generalize solutions/landscapes/ecologies).

There is a third leg to our agro-ecological ‘stool’….and it is the most tentative (much work needs to be done…but a good start). It is an ever evolving list of agro-ecological practices.

The outline to date:

    • Area I: Improving the physical, chemical and biological conditions of soil.
      • Compost Practices (Composition and chemically/biologically specific practices and their application) including vermiculture
      • Mulching Practices (Composition and chemically/biologically specific practices and their application)
      • Manure Practices (Composition, and animal specific manure practices including amendments/methods)
      • Bionutrient Practices (Bionutrient practices including amendments/methods)
    • Area II: Managing nutrients
      • Practices that ensure minimalization of non-point source runoff from nutrient application
      • Practices that ensure protection of air quality
      • Practices for row arrangement that aid both nutrient management and other productivity enhancements
      • Practices for crop rotation that aid nutrient management and enhance productivity
    • Area III: Managing weeds and pests
      • Practices creating native plant communities and wildlife habitat consistent with site ecology
      • Practices that enhance accessibility, quantity, and quality of forage
      • Practices of integrated pest management
    • Area IV: Managing water
      • Structures for water control
      • Practices for stormwater runoff control
      • Practices for irrigation, microirrigation
      • Practices for water harvesting
    • Area V: Managing farm infrastructure
      • Practices for vegetative barriers
      • Practices for vegetative treated areas
      • Practices for tree and shrub establishment
      • Practices for obstruction removal
      • Practices for land clearing
      • Practices for waste recycling
      • Practices for seasonal high tunnels for crops
      • Practices for fencing
      • Practices for hedgerows
    • Area VI: Managing farm energy uses
      • Practices that reduce on-farm energy use
      • Practices that improve the efficiency of on-farm energy use

The initial work was done in a partnership with USDA NRCS as an effort to improve the conservation practice definitions and payments for specialty farmers. We have taken it a good bit further at this point to evolve both a plan for a demonstration farm as well as a training curriculum.