Introduction to Ecological Intensification

Ecological Intensification (EI) is the state-of-the-art management of crop production focused on increasing yield per unit of land. EI seeks to approach the attainable yield of farming systems; ideally, yields within 75-85 percent of their physiological maximum for a given soil and climate. Yield increases are fundamental in feeding a rapidly expanding world population, and meeting increasing biofuel demands. As a result of yield increases from EI, the need to break-out new land for grain production will be reduced. The system promotes less use of marginal and erodible land for crop production, leaving these areas in restored or native conditions. This means more land is available for wildlife habitat, recreation and other purposes. As a consequence of projected population growth, non-agricultural land uses will be in greater demand. Another impact of EI is increased carbon sequestration; which is achieved because of the greater residue biomass that accompanies higher yields. Additional crop residue from this increased production can also provide environmental benefits such as reduced water, sediment, nutrient runoff, and reduced wind erosion—ultimately improving water and air quality [19]. For more on Ecological Intensification, see BIOEN3, Unit 2.