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For more than 30 years, Auburn Professor Emeritus Dr. Wayne
Shell has been haunted by a question.
For more than 20 years, he undertook an almost superhuman effort to
His new book, “Evolution of the Alabama Agroecosystem:Always Keeping Up, but Never Catching Up,” is the culmination of that 20-year
It’s a tome by any standard of measurement — all 861 pages,
each page laid out in double columns.
For Shell, who served
21 years as chairman of Auburn’s Department of Fisheries and Allied
Aquacultures, it is not only a labor of love but also a massive study
encompassing several disciplines — history, physiology, soils, geography and
climate — though it also deals with more subtle influences, such as Alabama’s politics
The research for the book settled a longstanding question, one on which he stumbled some 30 years ago.
This challenge led him to investigate the
reasons why Alabama agriculture was so adversely affected by the economic
downturn in the first place.
Following some initial investigation, what he learned about
Alabama’s comparative disadvantages vis-à-vis other states surprised and even
Unable for several reasons to investigate these concerns
more fully at the time, Shell vowed that he would pick up the trail
He was true to his word.
The book, published by New South Books in Montgomery, leaves
no stone unturned in Shell’s unrelenting efforts to get to the bottom of this
The book traces how the development of agricultural
practices in the Old World affect those of the new, particularly Alabama. Most significant, though, it represents an
exhaustive study of how changes in U.S. and Alabama agricultural practices and
federal and state governmental policies since the 19th century have
affected Alabama’s and much of the South’s
limited competitiveness with the rest of the nation. Returning to the subtitle, it’s an account of
how Alabama agriculture has always managed to keep up but never catch up.
Shell, who grew up in Butler County, earned his a bachelor’s
and master’s degree in fisheries from Auburn University and also holds a Ph.D.
in fisheries biology from Cornell University.
In addition to his 35-year career as an Auburn faculty member, Shell
also served 21 years as chairman of the Department of Fisheries and Allied
Aquacultures and also as director of the International Center of
He retired in 1994.
To learn more about Shell’s book, visit NewSouth Books at www.newsouthbooks.com.
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