Agriculture against the wall: barriers and opportunities for agroecological transitions in California’s industrial agricultural landscapes

Estelí Jiménez-Soto, Madeleine Fairbairn, Joji Muramoto, Carol Shennan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Agroecology emphasizes a shift from low diversity, high chemical input farming to more biodiverse agroecosystems cultivated in conjunction with natural ecosystem processes and embedded in socially just relationships. Yet achieving such agroecological transitions presents enormous challenges in industrial agricultural landscapes dominated by consolidation and overproduction. We examine both the challenges and the opportunities for agroecological transition in one particular industrial agricultural context: the fumigant-dependent strawberry production of California’s Central Coast. We do so by exploring adoption of Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation (ASD), an agroecological alternative to fumigation which has shown considerable promise but has been historically underutilized. Building on previously identified “domains of agroecological transformation,” we characterize the enabling and disabling conditions for agroecological transitions in California’s agricultural landscape. Through semi-structured interviews with farmers, extensionists, and industry stakeholders we uncover significant regime lock-ins: most prominently insecure land tenure and unequal access to land, unequal systems of exchange, and a culture that favors silver bullet narratives and top-down knowledge transfer; as well as drivers of change. The case of ASD, we conclude, reveals that technology-led agroecological transitions will have difficulty succeeding unless they are embedded in broader efforts to transform the social and political relationships of industrial agriculture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)432-460
Number of pages29
JournalAgroecology and Sustainable Food Systems
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Agroecological transitions
  • SDG 12: responsible consumption and production
  • anaerobic soil disinfestation
  • fumigant alternatives in strawberry production
  • soil-borne pathogens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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