What does it mean to be locally adapted and who cares anyway?

J Anim Sci. 2008 Apr;86(14 Suppl):E271-84. doi: 10.2527/jas.2007-0468. Epub 2007 Oct 26.


The availability of fossil fuels will likely decline dramatically during the first half of the twenty-first century, and the massive deficits probably will not be alleviated by alternative sources of energy. This seeming catastrophe will create opportunities for communities to benefit from foods produced locally in ways that nurture relationships among soil, water, plants, herbivores, and people to sustain their collective well being. Agriculture will be much more at the heart of communities than it is currently, but by necessity, it will no longer be so dependent on fossil fuels to power machinery or to produce fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides to grow and protect plants in monocultures, antibiotics, and anthelmintics to maintain the health of herbivores, or nutritional supplements and pharmaceuticals to sustain humans. Rather, from soils and plants to herbivores and people, we will have to learn once again what it means to be locally adapted to the landscapes we inhabit. In the process of relearning these skills, plants will become more important as nutrition centers and pharmacies, their vast arrays of primary (nutrients) and secondary (pharmaceuticals) compounds useful in nutrition and health. There also will be a need, as in times past before our heavy reliance on fossil fuels, to produce livestock in easy-care systems that match seasonally-available forages with production needs and that match animals anatomically, physiologically, and behaviorally to local landscapes. This will mean reducing inputs of fossil fuels to increase profitability by 1) matching animal needs to forage resources; 2) selecting for animals that are adapted anatomically, physiologically, and behaviorally to local environments; 3) culling animals unable to reproduce with minimal help from humans; and 4) creating grazing systems that enhance the well-being of soils, plants, herbivores, and people.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / economics
  • Agriculture / methods*
  • Animal Husbandry / economics
  • Animal Husbandry / methods*
  • Animals
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods*
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Fossil Fuels
  • Humans
  • Transportation / economics


  • Fossil Fuels