Agro Evolution

Self-organising genetic conservation and genetic diversity will constitute a true agro-evolution, in the sense of the survival of the fittest. Or, more accurately, it will be agro-evolution in the sense of the elimination of the less fit.

On a global basis, this agro-evolution will be comparable to that of wild plant populations. The cultivated populations will differ from wild populations in two main respects. First, they will be locally optimised (see 1.12) in terms of their horizontal resistance to all locally important parasites, their yield, their quality of crop product, and their agronomic suitability. Second, they will be cultivated as homogeneous populations. This means that the genetic diversity will occur between crops rather then within crops. But, in most crop species, the overall bio-diversity is likely to be as wide as that of any wild plant species. Genetic conservation, bio-diversity, and stability will be assured.

The concept of agro-evolution being a self-organising system is important. And it is the notion of self-organisation that matters. Clearly, there will have to be some external controls imposed by governments, but these should be minimal. This self-organisation in agro-evolution will be the equivalent of democracy in politics, free trade in economics, freedom of expression on the Internet, and the unfettered self-organisation of any complex adaptive system. It will be micro-evolution operating by artificial selection on emergents (see 2.10). These emergents will be the locally important qualities of potential new agro-ecotypes.

If we investigate the history of plant breeding at the most fundamental level, during the twentieth century, the root problem appears to have been an excessive human control. Control is the exact opposite of self-organisation, and it positively prevents self-organisation. A certain minimum of control is obviously essential. But control of plant breeding during the twentieth century has been excessive. At its extreme this control would involve a central breeding institute, offering a succession of single homogeneous cultivars, each cultivated over a very large area. The resistances to parasites would be vertical resistances, each controlled by a single gene. And other protection mechanisms might involve a single, unstable insecticide, and a single, unstable fungicide. Under these circumstances, any possibility of agro-evolution is remote. This over-control was obviously exerted in ignorance of complexity theory. Nevertheless, it gives an extraordinary impression of the deliberate suppression of self-organisation.

Soviet Russia and its satellites have shown us the damage that can be caused by over-control in politics, economics, and agriculture. Now that the over-control has been relaxed, these countries are beginning to recover politically, economically, and agriculturally. It is not unreasonable to claim that plant breeding in the West has been over-controlled to a comparable extent during the twentieth century. While it would clearly be a mistake to swing to the opposite extreme of no control, it is obvious that self-organisation should be allowed to operate to the maximum advantage in this complex adaptive system.

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