Contested Agronomy: Imagining different futures for food and farmers

The question of how to improve farming to feed and sustain people in developing countries is as important as ever, and there are no easy solutions. One route to finding answers is through the science of agronomy – testing and evaluating how crops and farming techniques perform under different conditions. But, as with any science,…

Contested Agronomy: Four big questions to debate

We have just finished a fantastic conference co-hosted by the STEPS Centre on ‘Contested Agronomy’ with 80 participants and a vibrant discussion. I was asked to give some comments at the end. Here are some of these thoughts. Throughout the conference it was clear that ‘agronomy’ had to be understood both as a technology and…

Credit: STEPS Centre

A year of STEPS: 2015 highlights

As it’s nearing the end of 2015, here are some highlights you may have missed from the STEPS Centre’s last 12 months. We’ll see you next year! Our coverage of the COP21 climate conference STEPS members wrote blogs, organised events and reflected on the future of climate change action around the Paris conference in December….

Has the ‘impact agenda’ helped agronomy – or harmed it?

Every agronomist or agricultural research institute with an interest in international development, and who has applied for a research grant in the last 15 years, will have had to develop and justify a theory of change, and identify outcomes, anticipated impacts, measurable indicators and impact pathways. These tasks have become an obligatory part of agricultural…

Why we should argue about agronomy

“The real problem is that too many people are playing politics with agriculture, and poor people are suffering – agronomists should stick to the facts!” Organic agriculture, agroecology, Conservation Agriculture, the System of Rice Intensification, Holistic Management (Savory System), integrated pest management, Green Revolution style intensification, genetically modified crops – what do all of these…

Soil and politics

What do you think of when you think about soil? There are radically different ways to answer the question. For some scientists, it’s a subject of investigation – what do soils need to grow which types of plants the best? How can they be managed, improved or damaged? For archaeologists or paleontologists, digging into the…

Arguing about agronomy: the changing politics of agronomy research

A new article in Outlook on Agriculture explores how agronomy has been affected by social change since the 1970s. The science of agronomy informs crucial decisions on development. It is often seen as a practical, problem-solving field, but like other areas of study is affected by politics and power. The authors suggest a ‘political agronomy’ approach, which…