New book: Contested Agronomy

Contested Agronomy book coverA new book, Contested Agronomy, by FAC members Jim Sumberg and John Thompson, is published by Routledge as part of the STEPS Centre's Pathways to Sustainability book series.

Contested Agronomy book: order

The dramatic increases in food prices experienced over the last four years, and their effects of hunger and food insecurity, as well as human-induced climate change and its implications for agriculture, food production and food security, are key topics within the field of agronomy and agricultural research.

Contested Agronomy: Agricultural Research in a Changing World addresses these issues by exploring key developments since the mid-1970s. The book focuses in particular on the emergence of the neoliberal project and the rise of the participation and environmental agendas, taking into consideration how these have had profound impacts on the practice of agronomic research in the developing world especially over the last four decades.

Contested Agronomy explores, through a series of case studies, the basis for a much needed ‘political agronomy’ analysis that highlights the impacts of problem framing and narratives, historical disjunctures, epistemic communities and the increasing pressure to demonstrate ‘success’ on both agricultural research and the farmers, processors and consumers it is meant to serve.

Whilst being a fascinating and thought-provoking read for professionals in the Agriculture and Environmental sciences, it will also appeal to students and researchers in agricultural policy, development studies, geography, public administration, rural sociology, and science and technology studies.

About the authors

James Sumberg is Research Fellow in the Knowledge, Technology and Society Team at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and a member of the STEPS Centre, University of Sussex, UK.

John Thompson is Research Fellow in the Knowledge, Technology and Society Team at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and a member of the STEPS Centre, University of Sussex, UK.

Reviews of the book

Explored through compelling case studies, this book is a gripping account of the recent history of agronomy and agricultural research, and how these disciplines have been shaped by emerging challenges such as climate change, erratic weather, and increasing food prices.
Prof. Judi W Wakhungu, Executive Director African Centre for Technology Studies

This is an important and necessary book.  For too long agronomy has been used as a means to increase productivity of only a few crops responsive to high inputs.  By contextualizing the science economically, socially and politically, we learn of its potential as a system science that can serve more than the stockholders of major input providers.
Professor Cornelia Flora – Iowa State University

It has been a long time since there was consensus in agricultural development approaches. ‘Contested Agronomy’ lays out the difference between different practitioner groups and marks an important step forward in the continuing dialogue.
Dr Tom Remington, Principal Agriculture Advisor, Catholic Relief Services

'Contested Agronomy' shows how much both the technical questions asked by practitioners and the broader questions asked by supporters of and detractors from agronomic research have changed over the past several decades.  Moreover, it asks tough questions about the contested politics that drive particular research agendas globally.  Not only agronomists, but anyone interested in the future provision of food should read this book.
Professor Lawrence Busch, Michigan State University

This book is a much needed contribution to the discourse on science in society and a challenge to agricultural scientists. Previously the invention of ‘political ecology’ has provided a focus for scholars from different academic disciplines to explore understandings derived from environmental science and to relate them to the needs of society. In this book we are presented with a much needed ‘political agronomy’ analysis which enables us to ask how we can make agricultural science respond better to the needs of society as we grapple with problems of future food security. I congratulate the authors in occupying the challenging interdisciplinary space of science in society and providing us with evidence to inform the debate the complexities surrounding agricultural research and sustainable development.
John Gowing, Reader in Agricultural Water Management, Newcastle University

A book for all those involved at the heart of agricultural research.  If you think themes such as Biofortification and Conservation Agriculture are driven mainly by technical discussions, think again.  Development policy, vested interests and even religion may also mould how investigation unfolds.  The book’s main message: how to get Research back on course.
Dr. Louise Sperling, specialist in impact-oriented plant breeding and seed systems research and development