Two central challenges facing humanity in the 21st century are food-supply security to a growing population and conservation of biological diversity with the ecosystem resources that it supplies. Nonetheless, the intensification of agriculture over the past decades is one of the principal causes of the declines in global biological diversity and collapse of ecosystem functions. Loss of vital ecosystem resources brings with it a growing burden on agricultural production, expressed as frequently recurring severe outbreaks of diseases and pests, absence of pollinators, and soil degradation and loss.
A central goal of agroecology is an intensification of ecology itself. This means harnessing natural ecological processes for agricultural production, and substituting them for some of the external inputs used in intensive agriculture to increase yields but which negatively impact on long-term sustainability, such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Diverse ecological communities formed by a slew of undomesticated organisms undergo and drive many biologically dynamic processes. Some of these may favor the development of agricultural pests and others may be deleterious toward them. Therefore, successful application of ecological intensification requires a rigorous understanding of the elements and structure of the ecological community, and the interactions among the elements and their functions, in order to permit intelligent management of the biological resource diversity and maximize its potential services, both in neighboring cultivated fields and nearby uncultivated habitats. Thanks to its characteristic patchy and complex distribution, the Israeli agricultural landscape appears to be a perfect setting for developing schemes of effective agroecological management.
A central principle of the Model Farm for Sustainable Agriculture is the conservation and management of natural biological diversity and habitats, with the purpose of enhancing ecosystem services for the benefit of growers and society. The Model Farm for Sustainable Agriculture provides a platform for testing agricultural practices that are designed for enhancing ecosystem services, for monitoring their long-term effects on the diversity and functions of aboveground and belowground communities, and for maximizing long-term soil health and the biological control of crop pests and diseases.