Agricultural productivism, cosmopolitan plant-breeding, and the severed roots of agroecological thought

Juan Carmona-Zabala, Dimitris Panagiotopoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This article provides a historical account of the emergence of crop ecology, a precursor of modern agroecology, in the twentieth century. It focuses on the transnational career of agronomist Ioannis Papadakis, a founding figure in this scientific discipline, while contextualizing his work as part of broader state-led projects of agricultural modernization in Europe and Latin America. This study has two implications concerning the history of agroecology. First, that agricultural productivism and a cosmopolitan outlook on plant breeding, often considered to be at odds with agroecology’s principles, were in fact necessary elements for the emergence of crop ecology, and therefore of agroecological thought more generally. Second, we argue that the excesses of the Green Revolution, against which agroecology reacted in the last decades of the twentieth century, did not just stem from a disregard for the agricultural knowledge of indigenous peasants. They also resulted from the marginalization of intellectual dispositions that had taken shape in peripheral areas within the global geography of scientific production. A third implication, specific to the history of Greek agriculture, is that the claim that interwar Greece’s rural economy failed to substantially develop needs to be nuanced when the priorities of Greek agronomists are taken into consideration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-158
Number of pages26
JournalAgroecology and Sustainable Food Systems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Agroecology
  • Argentina
  • Greece
  • crop ecology
  • fertilization
  • interwar
  • plant breeding
  • productivism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Development
  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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