Herzberg Lecture - Gerry Ross

Dr. Gerald M. Ross

"More Food, Smaller Footprint: Earth System Science and Biological Agriculture"

Dr. Gerald M. Ross

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014
7:00 pm

Location: Kailash Mital Theatre

This is an open public lecture, with free admission and reception to follow. 





Modern agriculture faces a daunting task of feeding a growing population on a static or likely shrinking base of arable land. The philosophy of Earth system science examines cross-disciplinary interconnections of our planet from a holistic perspective. Applying these concepts to agriculture reveals important lessons that can help address key elements of human survival by utilizing and building on the strength of the soil ecosystem (i.e. biological agriculture). The soil ecosystem is an under explored aspect of modern agriculture but has evolved with plants since their emergence from the oceanic realm more than 400 million years ago and can be a powerful ally in  the “more with less” challenge.  Examples include drought resistance and enhanced mineral availability by culturing symbiotic soil fungus, using nitrogen fixing microbes to decrease our reliance on chemical fertilizers, and enhanced resistance to soil erosion through soil particle aggregation, a by-product of a healthy soil ecosystem. Perhaps the greatest opportunity of widespread application of biological agriculture will be sequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the form of organic matter (humus) such that properly stewarded agricultural lands represent our best bet to rescue our planet from the brink of climate damage.

About Dr. Gerald Ross

Dr. Ross is an alumnus of the Department of Earth Sciences. Gerry trained as a sedimentologist. During his career with the Geological Survey of Canada, he worked on and completed many projects including the Alberta Basement Lithoprobe program. Gerry was a member of the  Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and a founding member of Windermere Consortium. Gerry was an adjunct professor at University of Calgary and taught both graduate and undergraduate classes and was involved in many graduate student projects. In 2003, Gerry and his wife Janet began farming organic fruit, vegetables and eventually, award-winning coffee, on Maui, Hawaii. He has become a local voice for regenerational and biological agriculture being done on the island and successfully transformed his farm to a diverse multicrop, compost-fertilized, pesticide-free model. He has involved other farmers and is helping to change the local agricultural mindset through science-based education opportunities from grade school to adult.