Our research group uses the concepts of agroecology to obtain a deep understanding of the nature of agroecosystems and the principles by which they function. Throughout our research and writings we have aided in the emergence of agroecology as the discipline that provides the basic ecological principles for how to study, design, and manage sustainable agroecosystems that are both productive and natural resource conserving, and that are also culturally-sensitive, socially-just and economically viable. In particular, our research has focused on the ways in which biodiversity can contribute to the design of pest-stable agroecosystems. Several of our studies concentrate on elucidating the effects of intercropping, covercropping, weed management, and crop-field border vegetation manipulation on pest population density and damage and on the mechanisms enhancing biological control in diversified systems. Our research has also extended into Latin America where the enhancement of biodiversity in agriculture can help the great mass of resource-poor farmers to achieve year-round food self-sufficiency, reduce their reliance on chemical inputs and develop agroecosystems that rebuild the production capacities of their small land holdings. Our approach has consisted of devising integrated farming systems emphasizing soil and water conservation, natural crop protection, and achievement of soil fertility and stable yields through integration of trees, animals, and crops. Much of this work is conducted through inter-institutional partnerships with NGOs, International Research Centers and Universities including networks such as SANE, ANGOC and CLADES, as well as international organizations such as UNDP and the CGIAR. Read more about our research in Agroecology in Action.
Our laboratory is involved in several field projects in California where we are testing ideas of landscape ecology applied to agriculture such as the use of biological corridors in pest management. The idea is to explore whether corridors can break the nature of monocultures by serving as a conduit for the dispersion of natural enemies within the field thus enhancing their impact on pest populations. The effects of summer cover crops on insect pest populations (grape leafhoppers, thrips and sharpshooters) and associated natural enemies is also being examined in vineyards. Of special interest is to determine whether timing mowing of cover crops in alternate rows can force movement of beneficials to adjacent vines to exert greater pest suppression.Our group is also engaged in collaborative work with a number of Universities, NGOs and research centers in Africa, Asia and Latin America promoting research, training and capacity building in agroecology and sustainable agriculture.