Increased Crop System Diversity: an Alternative to Prolific Pesticide Use

While doing the research for the GMO series I stumbled across a fascinating, long-term study closer to the scale of Rural System. The authors hypothesized that diverse, 3 and 4-year crop rotation systems would provide ecosystem services, “that would supplement, and eventually displace, synthetic external inputs used to maintain crop productivity.” Upon examining their results, I would say that not only does this seem to be the case, but such systems would likely create jobs as well. Diverse crop rotations, if effective at suppressing weed populations, would be an attractive alternative to GM crops designed to withstand intensive herbicide application. The results of this study would also be particularly interesting to organic farmers, who are already limited in their selection of pest control methods.

crop rotation diversity

Aerial view of Marsden Farm study, Boone IA. Crop abbreviations: m = maize, sb = soybean, g = small grain, a = alfalfa.
Provided thanks to a Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.

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Feedback? Try Feedforward!

Looking back we sometimes wish we had been looking farther forward. But can this 20/20 hindsight be anticipated beforehand?

At least with land management, progressively more responsive and complex ecological models are available to help predict how systems might respond in the near future. These are the models working behind VNodal, Rural System’s prescriptive software system. But once you project trends and patterns or make predictions about the future, they must be re-incorporated into your decision-making process so that you can act upon them.

This forward-thinking process has been dubbed “feedforward.” [Read more…]

Reaching for Economies of Scale

One of Rural System’s foundational principles is the idea that economies of scale must be achieved for a rural community to succeed. Small businesses struggle on their own in the present American economy. With Walmart and other massive corporations and franchises dominating the scene, the small business is finding it difficult to compete. Rural areas especially are suffering from poverty and unemployment. In such a climate, Rural System proposes developing many small businesses at once that can work together, and so creating the much needed economies of scale.

wheel of success

As a wheel with many spokes is well-supported and well-prepared to carry weight forth, so does an economy of scale carry small businesses forward into the future.


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An Inclusive Future: Managing the Rural Ecosystem

Pesapane_Uganda_2013 (366)Standing in a forest you are surrounded by movement. Even as you still your breath you can hear the leaves on the ground twitch and rustle, and the green around you waves in the wind. Imagine you can feel the ground beneath your toes. Imagine sweet pine scent kisses your nose. Are you separate from this place in this moment? Or are you, too, a natural being? [Read more…]

Groups: Turning Profit in the Rural System


The Gardens Group manages gardens on Rural System enterprise environments.

Say you own a forest and you want to make money off of it.  Do you clear-cut the forest and call it a day? Some might say yes: exploit that resource while you have it and enjoy the money in the short-term. Others, like our team here at Rural System, ask if there are other ways to make a profit off a forest or other tract of land. Unsurprisingly we find our answer already playing out in natural systems. In ecosystems you find creatures living off of other creatures or even off of inorganic minerals in the most astonishing ways. No source of energy goes unused.  Our answer?: Diversify! [Read more…]