Seminar: Balancing Food & the Environment: Local Strategies in a Global Food System

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Kate Tully, Assistant Professor of Agroecology, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, University of Maryland
Time of Event: 
Tuesday, April 26, 2016 - 11:00

National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC)
1 Park Place, Suite 300
Annapolis, MD 21401

Seminar Abstract:

By 2050, the world’s two billion farmers must grow enough food to feed nine billion people. And this must be accomplished in the face of degrading and eroding soils, water shortages, and the effects of climate change. Such a feat is only possible if global efforts are made to support and balance dynamic agriculture-environment-livelihood systems at the local level. Currently, half of the world’s vegetated land is used to grow food, with agriculture rapidly replacing forests in tropical regions. Agriculture accounts for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of total freshwater use. Maintaining the natural resource base used to produce food for a growing population requires an integrated and sustainable approach to agricultural intensification at local level. I will examine three cases where agroecological principles can be used to inform local land management strategies: coffee farms in Costa Rica, subsistence maize in East Africa, and grain production on Maryland’s eastern shore. I will show that tracking the fate of nutrients through these systems is a useful tool for determining where and how inefficiencies occur. By identifying the “leaks” in the system, we adapt local management strategies to “plug the holes” and strengthen the human and environmental dimensions of agricultural systems.

Speaker Bio:

Kate Tully is an Assistant Professor of Agricultural Ecology in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture. She comes to the University of Maryland from Columbia University's Earth Institute and the Agriculture and Food Security Center. Her current research assesses the sustainability of food production systems by examining their effects on interactions among plants, soils, carbon, nutrient, and water cycles. Her research at Columbia took her to Kenya and Tanzania where she studied the effects of increased fertilizer application in smallholder farming systems. While most research has focused on improving yields, environmental impacts of such additions in depleted African soils are largely unknown. Her research is producing some of the first data on environmental impacts necessary for developing sustainable agriculture strategies in this understudied region of the world. Kate is bringing her innovative and integrative research to the State of Maryland to help support agricultural systems that can provide both food and ecosystem services to the region.

SESYNC seminars are open to all interested attendees. Join us in Annapolis!

The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, funded through an award to the University of Maryland from the National Science Foundation, is a research center dedicated to accelerating data-driven scientific discovery at the interface of human and ecological systems. Visit us online at and follow us on Twitter @SESYNC.

Event type: 
Event Attendance: 
Open to the Public
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