This special issue of the journal Outlook on Agriculture, edited by James Sumberg and Ken Giller, focuses on biomimicry and ‘nature-based solutions’ in relation to food production. The introductory paper contrasts a technological approach to solving food system problems with the “(re)turn to nature” style of thinking seen in (for example) agroecology and regenerative farming. The rest of the special issue covers a range of topics including perennial grain crops and their downsides, the philosophical and conceptual underpinnings of nature-based agricultural practices, soil organic carbon, and the “epic narratives” that have been built around natural agriculture.
The special issue contains the following articles:
- Future agricultures: The promise and pitfalls of a (re)turn to nature
- Monodominant natural vegetation provides models for nature-based cereal production
- Perils of production with perennial polycultures
- Progress Towards Perennial Grains for Prairies and Plains
- Regenerative agriculture as a biomimetic technology
- Copy competitively-tested adaptations of wild species, maybe, but not natural ecosystems tested only by persistence
- Restoring social and ecological relationships in the agroecosystems of Canada's prairie region
- High-density grazing in southern Africa: Inspiration by nature leads to conservation?
- Soil biodiversity and nature-mimicry in agriculture; the power of metaphor?
- Is it possible to attain the same soil organic matter content in arable agricultural soils as under natural vegetation?
- Options for diversifying agricultural systems to reduce pesticide use: Can we learn from nature?
- Mimicking nature to reduce agricultural impact on water cycles: A set of mimetrics
- The use of epic narratives in promoting ‘natural agriculture’ (see also the TABLE summary here)
Abstract of the introductory paper
This paper introduces the Outlook on Agriculture Special Issue on biomimicry and nature-based solutions. It provides a selective overview that will help frame and situate the collection, with a particular focus on agriculture and food production. The relationship between agriculture and nature is a central concern, and particularly how this relationship is framed by those promoting the idea that to overcome the multiple challenges it faces, agriculture must (re)turn to nature. The significance of different understandings of ‘nature-based solutions’, and the relative importance of biomimicry, are explored.
Reference of the introductory paper
Sumberg, J., 2022. Future agricultures: The promise and pitfalls of a (re) turn to nature. Outlook on Agriculture, 51(1), pp.3-10.