She threw the quadrat over her shoulder onto the grass, and told us to get down on our knees and tell her what we could see within its edges. I was fascinated. From what was previously just a patch of grass over which we kicked our football, I discovered another miniature world.
Thus, I became an agricultural ecologist. My first job was as an entomologist in Borneo where numerous pests were destroying cocoa plantations in the cleared forest. The planters were spraying the trees with all sorts of pesticides. Then I realized that this solution was actually the problem. Once I managed to get all the spraying stopped, the pests came under the control of their natural enemies and the plantations thrived. Throughout my career, I have looked for ways of applying ecological principles and practices to help create productive, sustainable and resilient agroecosystems.
Sir Gordon Conway is a professor of international development at Imperial College London and was the former President of the Rockefeller Foundation