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Skip to main content Skip to sections. Advertisement Hide. Download PDF. Agronomy for Sustainable Development October , Cite as. Sustainable intensification in agriculture: the richer shade of green. A review. Open Access. First Online: 23 August The overall goal of this paper is to describe the perspective of making agriculture green, i. We divide that general goal into three aims: i We will demonstrate that there are different routes to provide agriculture with a richer shade of green and to make it achieve what is needed: sufficient, safe and nutritious food produced in a morally acceptable way, based on equity, fairness and justice, and care for the future.

The definition implies the ability of not being harmful to the external environment. In the case of agriculture, sustainability is the ability of farmers to continue harvesting crop and animal products without degrading the environment or the resource base while maintaining economic profitability and social stability.

As such, the term sustainability describes the result of processes that achieve that purpose and the ability to permanently and indefinitely maintain the required quantity and quality of the resources. In practice, sustainability is often used as a synonym of sustainable development, the description of that process.

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Uphoff , when discussing problems with defining sustainability, referred to different kinds of definitions: i Extensional definitions, which do not define describe in words or point out as such, but list everything that falls under that definition. If that more inclusive conceptualization is accepted, then sustainable intensification requires: i Scientific consensus on the hierarchy of sustainability issues at stake, including indicators Mahon et al. Institutional innovation to realize adaptive management and governance. Pretty coined the term sustainable intensification first to describe the need for increases in yield output per unit area of land while also benefitting the environment and the economy in sub-Saharan Africa, an area with large yield gaps.

See Fig. The picture shows how resource-poor farmers align the remaining stover along the original crop rows, especially on the slopes, to maximize the resource use efficiency. Pretty considered the participation of smallholders essential in developing productive, locally adapted technologies. But also, here, the output site of the equation merely contains produce and environmental impact.

Still later, Pretty et al. Gradually, the concept of sustainable intensification has apparently been widened to also include industrial agriculture in the developed world and to provide connections between current and future practices without being disruptive. Currently, the term is most often used for industrial agriculture, and sustainable intensification by smallholder farmers in the global south is now more often referred to as ecological intensification see below. This definition restricts sustainability to very specific types of inputs and resources.

This link with ecosystem services brings the definition much closer to that of ecological intensification see below.

Open image in new window. Many ideas and theories of ecological intensification still lack proof.

For example, it is still difficult to directly link biodiversity to resource use efficiency, yield increase, or resilience. Yet, a recent review suggested that intercropping can play a significant role in sustainable intensification Brooker et al.

Another recent study across different countries demonstrated that crop diversification is an important tool in ecological intensification Gurr et al. Not everyone is optimistic: Sadras and Denison stated that there is a dual barrier both biological and agronomical to optimize crops and cropping systems. Optimization of single crop traits e. They concluded that neither crop genetics nor crop management can be optimized; removing agronomic barriers for sustainable intensification is therefore complicated.


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Our considerations in Sections 4 and 5 are summarized in Fig. Figure 3 should be read from left to right and from right to left. From left to right, it describes the contribution of agronomic technical science and education to agronomic sustainability and its components, demonstrating that there are technological trade-offs to be taken into account. From right to left, the figure integrates the input of biophysical science and education and social science and education into the societal debate on how society wants its food to be produced, taking into account the biophysical limits of the planet Earth, societal justice for all current and future stakeholders, and options of institutional innovation and adaptive management.

This results in integration of biophysical indicators on the one hand and norms and values on the other hand that together prompt to assessing a hierarchy of sustainability issues and starting social negotiations. The outcome is, again, a set of trade-offs. Combining the latter trade-offs with the agronomic trade-offs results in an inclusive concept of sustainability that shows the way to either sustainable de-intensification or sustainable intensification. Note that the processes indicated in the scheme work best if from the very early start the agronomic science and education on the left interact with the biophysical science and education and the social science and education on the right.

Especially in Nordic universities, lecturers and students have been experimenting with novel educational strategies. Lieblein et al. Kolb They evaluated the involvement of non-university stakeholders in courses or research programs of Nordic universities and concluded that such an involvement could serve four purposes: i It enables understanding of complex topics, often unique in context and location.

It helps to connect university with society. It creates social relevance and civic engagement. Francis et al. In brief, these strategies can be described as: 1. Using contemporary and local resources in food systems. Creating abilities for autonomous, life-long, social learning. Enabling students in learning for responsible action.

Acknowledgments The authors are grateful to the reviewers and editors for their detailed, constructive, and useful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. Geogr J — Altieri MA Convergence or divide in the movement for sustainable and just agriculture. Sustain Agr Rev —9. Anderson B What kind of thing is resilience? Politics — Clim Dev — Curr Opin Env Sust — Beroya-Eitner MA Ecological vulnerability indicators.

Ecol Indic — Sci Rep New Phytol 1 — Brussaard L Chapter 1. Ecosystem services provided by the soil biota. In: Wall DH et al eds Soil ecology and ecosystem services. Cassman KG Ecological intensification of cereal production systems: yield potential, soil quality, and precision agriculture. Front Plant Sci Agric Ecosyst Environ — Glob Food Secur — De Schutter O Report of the special rapporteur on the right to food.

De Wit CT Resource use efficiency in agriculture. Agric Syst — Eur J Agron — Agron Sustain Dev — FAO The ethics of sustainable agricultural intensification. FAO a The state of food insecurity in the world. How does international price volatility affect domestic economies and food security?

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FAO b Save and grow. FAO, Rome, pp. Feenstra G Creating space for sustainable food systems: lessons from the field. Agr Hum Val 19 2 — Examples from France.

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In: Wezel A ed Agroecological practices for sustainable agriculture: principles, applications, and making the transition. Agr Ecost Environ — Trends Ecol Evol — Nature — Agron J — Extensive or intensive? Global or local? A critical review of potential pathways to resolve the global food crisis. Trends Food Sci Tech — Ecol Soc Garnett T, Godfray HCJ Sustainable intensification in agriculture: navigating a course through competing food system priorities. University of Oxford, Oxford Google Scholar. Science — Garnier E, Navas ML A trait-based approach to comparative functional plant ecology: concepts, methods and applications for agroecology.

Front Ecol Environ 14 4 — Nat Plants 2 March Holling CS Engineering resilience versus ecological resilience. In: Schulze PC ed Engineering within ecological constraints. IPES-Food From uniformity to diversity: a paradigm shift form industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems. International Panel on Sustainable Food Systems.

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Crop Sci S—S Kolb D Experiential learning. Experience as the source for learning and development. Lammerts van Bueren E Enhancing resilience through plant breeding requires an integrated and interdisciplinary approach. In: Davis K ed Cultivating resilience. Proceedings of the 8th Organic Seed Growers Conference. February 4—6, , Corvallis, OR. Environ Manag — J Agric Educ Ext 18 1 — Front Ecol Environ 12 6 — A systematic review. J Appl Ecol — Petersen B, Snapp B What is sustainable intensification? Views from experts. Land Use Policy — Pretty JN The sustainable intensification of agriculture.

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