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Are there researchers studying how to apply (other animal than human) psychology to agronomy, and does such a research area has a name (and which one)?

Such a name would help in finding existing results/researchers in such area, so that to avoid reinventing existing results. Such research would fall under the umbrellas of agronomy, ethology, comparative psychology, etc., but it also falls under the wider umbrella of "science": a more specific name would be useful. If such a research area does not exist (yet), then finding the closest areas and results would help to argue its novelty (e.g. when applying for research funding or recruiting students and collaborators).

Permaculture

I took several courses of Permaculture in the last 4 years, and it seems that all of them focus on

  • actively
    1. choosing the right spot,
    2. sculpting the land in the right way,
    3. planting the right combination of plants at the right place; but
  • passively
    • hoping that wild life animals will come and fill their ecological niche, in the manner that "their instinct dictates", eventually training a dog to keep predators at bay of some areas (but tolerating the predators as a necessary evil for the balance of all things).

Culture in (Other) Animals (Than Humans)

Articles in New Scientist (2021) and Science (2013) are testimonies that the notion that a large amount of information is passed from the parents to their descendants (something that breeders (of dogs, among other things) were aware for centuries) is NOT restricted to humans (with "instincts" and "genetics" dictating the behavior of (Other) Animals (Than Humans)).

Hypothesis

Could one durably shape the culture / psychology of the (Other) Animals (Than Humans) participating in an eco-system, both wild and domesticated, in such a way to improve such eco-system (whether in term of efficiency, robustness, resiliency, or any chosen desired measure)?

Examples

Some examples of research questions and applications in "Agro Psychology" would be

  1. Which animals (mammals but also insects) can learn to avoid eating some kinds of food, to which depths, with which retention and with how much ability to transmit to their descendants? (And later, what is the most economic and less frustrating (for them) way for them to learn this?). For instance:

  2. What are the difference of perceptions between humans and other animals (this part ethology, but also part psychology as perception filters are shaped in the brain)? Can one, for instance, design unedible fake vegetables or fruits (e.g. stones painted to look like strawberries) which are easy to distinguish from the real stuff by humans, but difficult to distinguish from the real stuff by (some species of) other animals (domestic or wild), so that they learn to avoid eating the real stuff.

    • An example of application (staying with Chicken, but the application holds for wild birds too) would be the ability to print fake lettuce (which look real to chicken) and use it to teach young chicken not to eat real lettuce, and mix it with real lettuce when they are adult, so that they continue to avoid eating lettuce.

    • Another example would be to build systems that frightens undesired species while desired species literally do not see the artifact of such system because of their distinct sensory abilities.

Research Motivation

Supposing that the environment in which humanity tries to produce food becomes harsher and less stable (average temperature rise, extreme climate events, invasive species brought by the climate changes and climate migrations, etc.), it seems that extending the ability to control the conditions of an artificial eco-system from the land, water and plants to the culture of the (other) animals (than humans) acting within it might be a (much needed) advantage, if it can be done.

Motivation of my Question

I find the idea so interesting that I find it hard to believe that others did not work on such ideas in the past (after all, training chicken to go back to their coop on their own, training dogs to take care of a flock of sheep on their own, kind of falls into such research area), and I wonder what are the closest research areas to this idea, so that I can 1) avoid "reinventing the wheel", 2) use the agreed upon vocabulary when describing my (potential) research on such topics and 3) know whom to describe it too.

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    $\begingroup$ While trying to mentally build the structure of the field of psychology you are looking for, I have been wondering. What is it about Animal Psychology (Ethology) or Comparative Psychology that might not meet the criteria? $\endgroup$ Feb 5, 2023 at 23:40
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    $\begingroup$ Other options: Animal cognition, animal behaviour, cognitive ethology, and animal handling (zootechnics). $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Feb 6, 2023 at 7:46
  • $\begingroup$ @ChrisRogers My understanding is that Ethology and Comparative Psychology (I am working on projects in those areas currently) focus more on the existing behaviors of (Other) Animals (Than Humans) than on creating radically new behaviors (but I do not feel an expert in the area and might have missed existing projects). $\endgroup$
    – J..y B..y
    Feb 6, 2023 at 10:30
  • $\begingroup$ @ArnonWeinberg The definition of "Zootechnics" sounds promising, I will try to find scientific reports about that, thanks a lot! Of course, something falling under the umbrella of agro-psychology would ALSO fall under the umbrella of Animal Cognition, Animal Behavior, Cognitive Ethology (and animal handling) but I am looking for a term more specific, which would help to find existing such results and/or people interested in the same questions (and avoid reinventing the wheel). $\endgroup$
    – J..y B..y
    Feb 6, 2023 at 10:34

1 Answer 1

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It seems that the term "Agro-Psychology" have been used in the past for something else, but that the term "Psycho-Agronomy" has not been used (yet).

  1. The term of "Agro-Psychology" has been used in the past, but with a different meaning, that of using agronomic tasks in psychology (e.g. to cure the mind): a 2008 post in the forum https://www.homesteadingtoday.com is referring to a now non existing blogpost summarizes the idea as "gardening/farming can heal the self", quoting the (now non existing) post as

Let's face it: our world has become increasingly maddening. Bad news mounts each day: unending wars, financial crises, earthquakes, hurricanes and cyclones killing thousands, chaotic climate change, vanishing pollinating bees and polar bears, rising oceans, thinning forests and a host of human-created or -worsened threats. We live in uncertain times with an even more uncertain future. We face unprecedented, unpredictable converging threats. What can one do to remain somewhat sane? The ostrich approach of denial by burying one's head in the sand will not be effective or life-enhancing.

It is a good time for an increasing number of people to return to the multiple benefits and pleasures of growing at least part of their own food by gardening and farming. In addition to satisfying the need to eat and drink, farming can also help deal with depression, passivity, and other forms of psychological suffering. It can help treat both the body and the soul. Farming can be done in ways that preserve the Earth and put humans in direct contact with it.

  1. I would define "Psycho-Agronomy" as the science of using psychology results (on Other Animals Than Humans) in agronomy (e.g. shaping other animals than humans' behavior to improve efficiency in agronomy). There are already some results in this direction (from the ancient custom of breeding and training of dogs to pastor sheep to the modern one of "training" insects to selectively eat other insects), but that the area did not fully emerge yet.

Now to work on more results in order for a "new science" to be born, answering the challenges of civilizations working independently of fossil fuels on a planet with an unstable climate!

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