News story, 19 July 2012
Roger Leakey: "Harness the ecological power of trees"
“Tropical agriculture is nowhere near as productive as it could be for a host of agronomic, environmental and social reasons. The problem is not that the yield potential of current crop varieties needs to be increased. Food security could be easily achieved if the crop husbandry of modern varieties allowed them to achieve their current potential.”
In his new book, Living with the Trees of Life, published by CABI this month, renowned agroforestry expert Roger Leakey aims to broaden the debate on solutions to food security beyond the current highly polarized arguments for the use of biotechnology versus organic farming.
The book presents his Equator Prize-winning three-step plan to fill the Yield Gap – the difference between yield potential and what the farmers are actually achieving – and urges governments and development organizations to harness the ecological power of trees.
“Trees lie at the heart of mature ecosystems providing thousands of organisms with the niches they need to perform a dynamic balancing trick based on the regulation of each other’s life cycles and food chains,” he said in an interview with CABI’s Ezine, to be published next month. “This makes ecosystems function sustainably to allow the populations of plants, bugs and beasties to keep each other in check. They also play a pivotal role in the cycling of nutrients, water and carbon; they protect watersheds and regulate water flows; and very importantly they produce a wide range of products from timber and wood to foods, medicines and other products of day-to-day importance to local people. Adding productive tree crops to farming systems in appropriate ways would allow the ecological functions of these farms to be ‘healthy’ in the same way.”