Agricultural Systems

Description

  • Impact factor
    2.50
  • 5-year impact
    2.84
  • Cited half-life
    8.00
  • Immediacy index
    0.52
  • Eigenfactor
    0.01
  • Article influence
    0.87
  • ISSN
    1873-2267

Publications in this journal

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: This paper aims to contribute to methodology and practice for evaluating the multifunctionality of agriculture (MFA), including economic, environmental and social functions, by developing and applying an integrated farm-level multifunctionality model for the case of olive growing in Andalusia, the main olive growing region in the world. The purpose of this model is to assess the multifunctional performance of olive growing at farm-level according to the farming techniques implemented by olive growers, as land managers, in average conditions of olive cultivation in Andalusia. The proposed model is theoretically based on the Analytic Network Process (ANP), a Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis method. The model is built on the knowledge of 27 experts and an extensive review of the international literature, and it draws from empirical data gathered from a survey of 400 farmers in the main olive oil producing zones of Andalusia. The application of the model is illustrated with a view to improving olive growing agri-environmental policies oriented to multifunctionality in Andalusia. The modelling results indicate that, in general, olive growers are applying technical alternatives which are optimal for obtaining a high quality product, but to a certain extent they are neglecting the social impacts and, to an even greater extent, the environmental impacts of their activity. Despite the positive evolution over the last decade, there is still much room for improvement. The most sensitive groups of farming practices generally in need of changes are soil management, irrigation and fertilization. The results also make it clear that an improved economic performance is not incompatible with social objectives, such as rural development and employment, and with the environmental protection of soil, water and biodiversity. Finally, the results indicate the higher multifunctional performance of some alternative farming packs. This is the case for both integrated production and intensive agriculture. Keywords: Multifunctionality; integrated evaluation; Analytic Network Process (ANP); olive growing; farming practices.
    Agricultural Systems 05/2014; 127:97-114.
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    ABSTRACT: Biochar’s effects on improving soil fertility, enhancing crop productivity and reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs) emission from croplands had been well addressed in numerous short-term experiments with biochar soil amendment (BSA) mostly in a single crop season/cropping year. However, the persistence of these effects, after a single biochar application, has not yet been well known due to limited long-term field studies so far. Large scale BSA in agriculture is often commented on the high cost due to large amount of biochar in a single application. Here, we try to show the persistence of biochar effects on soil fertility and crop productivity improvement as well as GHGs emission reduction, using data from a field experiment with BSA for 5-crop seasons in central North China. A single amendment of biochar was performed at rates of 0 (C0), 20 (C20) and 40 t ha−1 (C40) before sowing of the first crop season. Emissions of CO2, CH4 and N2O were monitored with static closed chamber method throughout the crop growing season for the 1st, 2nd and 5th cropping. Crop yield was measured and topsoil samples were collected at harvest of each crop season. BSA altered most of the soil physico-chemical properties with a significant increase over control in soil organic carbon (SOC) and available potassium (K) content. The increase in SOC and available K was consistent over the 5-crop seasons after BSA. Despite a significant yield increase in the first maize season, enhancement of crop yield was not consistent over crop seasons without corresponding to the changes in soil nutrient availability. BSA did not change seasonal total CO2 efflux but greatly reduced N2O emissions throughout the five seasons. This supported a stable nature of biochar carbon in soil, which played a consistent role in reducing N2O emission, which showed inter-annual variation with changes in temperature and soil moisture conditions. The biochar effect was much more consistent under C40 than under C20 and with GHGs emission than with soil property and crop yield. Thus, our study suggested that biochar amended in dry land could sustain a low carbon production both of maize and wheat in terms of its efficient carbon sequestration, lower GHGs emission intensity and soil improvement over 5-crop seasons after a single amendment.
    Agricultural Systems 01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: In this paper, a model-based integrated assessment of the long-term consequences of water erosion in four olive groves with different conditions in Andalusia (southern Spain) is carried out. The assessment is based on a system dynamics model built at hillside scale. The modelling approach tackles common difficulties arising from the relative scarcity of data and the uncertainty of the long term. On the one hand, model results have allowed characterising the nonlinear dynamics of water erosion. On the other, they have showed that positive gross margins may definitively vanish after around 100 years in some olive-growing areas. In spite of this, the adoption by farmers of soil conservation practices is limited. The assessment shows that the loss of yields due to the erosion-caused reduction in soil water availability lead to annual economic losses ranging between 1 and 2.8 € ha−1 yr−1 in the studied rainfed orchards. These losses are completely obscured by the normal fluctuations in economic and production variables, so that they do not give farmers adequate warning of the consequences of non-sustainable soil management.
    Agricultural Systems 01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: The integrated rice–duck farming (IRDF), in which ducks feed on insects and weeds in paddies and fertilise rice plants, has been a flagship of Asian sustainable-agriculture movements. Nevertheless, IRDF is not spreading rapidly enough to the extent to which it becomes a successful alternative agriculture. This paper undertakes a systematic review of a collection of experimental IRDF studies in order to derive an insight from the divergent experimental settings and findings. The paper also identifies the strengths and weaknesses of, opportunities for and threats to IRDF from the perspective of IRDF farmers, using the expert elicitation method. Five IRDF expert farmers from each of South Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam were interviewed for this purpose. The experimental studies and the expert farmers concurred that the most recognisable empirical strength of IRDF is the synergy of rice and ducks. It was found that the establishment of organic food certification systems provides an opportunity for IRDF to grow. On the other hand, labour-intensiveness was found the most challengeable weakness of IRDF. In parallel, labour shortage in rural areas was found as a serious threat to IRDF. It appears that the weaknesses and threats are more influential than the strengths and opportunities to shaping the adoption of IRDF. In order to make IRDF economically more feasible, the non-market ecological benefits of IRDF in mitigating land degradation and global warming can and should be internalised through appropriate policy instruments.
    Agricultural Systems 01/2014; 125:74–81.
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    ABSTRACT: Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L.) is the non-food crop with the largest acreage in the world. Tobacco is criticized because it causes health problems to its consumers and because production causes environmental damage such as soil degradation, deforestation and water pollution. Diversification has been indicated as the strategy for a sustainable economic development for farmers. In the specific case of Valle de Lerma, many years of continuous tobacco mono-cropping, excessive ploughing and poor irrigation control have caused soil degradation of the land used for tobacco. Tobacco farming in Salta also entails a production and a price risk which is increasing because of uncertainty surrounding governmental subsidies. The objective of this article is to assess the impact of diversification on expected farm income, income risk and soil organic matter (as an indicator of soil degradation) on specialized tobacco farms. To reach this objective, a quadratic programming model of a typical specialized tobacco farm is developed. Soil organic matter is included in the model by means of the concept of the carbon balance. The carbon balance is the difference between carbon supply and carbon decline in a year. Two different situations with respect to soil degradation are evaluated using the model. The current situation includes no restriction on carbon balance while the desired situation includes the restriction that the carbon balance cannot be negative. So farmers’ choices are valuated with and without carbon balance constraints. The model results for the current situation show that, no matter which risk attitude is used, the maximum area of land given irrigation possibilities is devoted to tobacco, while the rest of the land is assigned to the non-irrigated crop soybean. The carbon balance is negative and soil continues to degrade. In the desired situation, tobacco and soybean are partly replaced by bull beef production (including the production of alfalfa and maize for silage) to fulfill the requirement of a no negative carbon balance. As the risk aversion coefficient in this situation increases, the low risk crop chickpea enters the solution and bull beef decreases. The requirement of no further soil degradation comes at a high cost since gross margin of the farm is decreased by some 35% compared to the current situation. Finally, the model is used to explore the effects of an abolishment of governmental subsidies on tobacco. In this situation the production plan consists of soybean, bull beef and tobacco in such a proportion that the carbon balance is positive. Income effects of an abolishment of governmental subsidies on tobacco would be large as the gross margin of the farm decreases by some 60%.
    Agricultural Systems 01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a common tool for analyzing the environmental footprint of a production chain, such as that of cereal production. In an earlier study, we found that net mineralization of soil organic carbon (SOC) may contribute significantly to the CO2-emissions from a cereal producing farm at high latitudes, where huge amounts of C are stored in not only organic but also mineral soils. Changes in SOC are, however, rarely included in LCA studies. In this study, we have used LCA to analyze the production chains of grain, from cradle to farm gate, under the contrasting climatic conditions of three typical farms representing the major grain producing areas in Norway; southeast, central southeast, and central. The assessment comprised global warming potential (GWP), marine (ME) and freshwater eutrophication (FE), where the effects of SOC changes were highlighted by means of the ICBM-model. Data for the production of various inputs were taken from the LCA-database Ecoinvent and management details were based on interviews with the local advisory services and Norwegian recommendations. The relatively wide system boundaries used resulted in a GWP of 0.5–0.9 kg CO2-eq. per kg grain, depending on the cereal crop (barley, oats, spring or winter wheat) and site. On average, the contribution to total GWP was 20% for the manufacturing of machinery and buildings, 19% for the manufacturing of inputs, 8% for driving related emissions, and 53% for field emissions. Reduction in SOC accounted for up to 38% of the field emissions and on average 12% for the total GWP. The magnitude of the estimated SOC decay rates was more affected by the distance to the coast than by latitude. When halving the initial SOC level from 2% to 1%, the model simulations indicated C-sequestration at all sites, whereas an initial SOC level above 3.6–4.7% released CO2 from SOC in amounts exceeding the combined emissions from all other sources. The range of ME was 9–18 g N-eq. per kg grain, of which 98% was caused by drainage and runoff from the cropped fields. FE was in the range of 0.2–0.7 g P-eq. per kg grain. Leaching losses were the most important category, followed by manufacturing of inputs, with the production of P fertilizer as the major contributor. Our results show that field emissions may be important both for a global indicator such as GWP and for indicators of more local concern, such as ME and FE. Hence, further environmental improvements should be sought at the farm level.
    Agricultural Systems 01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Crop residues (CR) have become a limited resource in mixed crop-livestock farms. As a result of the increasing demand and low availability of alternative resources, CR became an essential resource for household activities, especially for livestock keeping; a major livelihood element of smallholder farmers in the developing world. Farmers’ decisions on CR use are determined by farmers’ preferences, total crop production, availability of alternative resources and demand for CR. Interaction of these determinants can result in pressures and trade-offs of CR use. Determinants, pressures and trade-offs are shaped by the specific socio-economic and agro-ecological context of these mixed farms. The objective of this paper is to provide a comparative analysis of the determinants of CR use and to examine some options to cope with pressures and trade-offs in 12 study sites across Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Drawing on socio-economic data at household and village level, we describe how cereal intensification and livestock feed demand influence use, pressures and trade-offs of CR use across study sites, specifically cereal residue. Our results show that in low cereal production and livestock feed demand sites, despite a low demand for CR and availability of alternative biomass, pressures and trade-offs of CR use are common particularly in the dry season. In sites with moderate cereal production, and low–moderate and moderate livestock feed demand, alternative biomass resources are scarce and most residues are fed to livestock or used to cover household needs. Subsequently, pressures and potential trade-offs are stronger. In sites with low cereal production and high livestock feed demand, pressures and trade-offs depend on the availability of better feed resources. Finally, sites with high cereal production and high livestock feed demand have been able to fulfil most of the demand for CR, limiting pressures and trade-offs. These patterns show that agricultural intensification, better management of communal resources and off-farm activities are plausible development pathways to overcome pressures and trade-offs of CR use. Although technologies can largely improve these trends, research and development should revisit past initiatives so as to develop innovative approaches to tackle the well-known problem of low agricultural production in many smallholder mixed systems, creating more sustainable futures.
    Agricultural Systems 01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: This paper presents part of a study evaluating alternative management strategies to address effects of climatic variability on productivity and profitability in dryland sheep farming in New Zealand. The study included a field trial and the development and use of quantitative models of sheep grazing systems. Field research carried out to investigate and demonstrate key aspects of high performance sheep systems in dryland environments is briefly described and a summary of results presented. These demonstrate that it is possible to maintain high pasture quality throughout the growing season with a relatively high stocking rate, leading to rapid lamb growth and sale. Flexibility to change feed demand quickly when conditions dry may reduce the variability of income between years (i.e. reduce risk) in comparison to the average farm in the region represented by a regional monitor farm model. To explore effects of different flexibility options and embedded climate risk responses over a number of years, a de-stocking and marketing algorithm has been developed. This combines information on current and projected feed supply and demand, and the probability of rain from long range weather forecasts into a ‘severity index’ which affects how aggressively a farmer might react to a change in climate conditions. Soil moisture level in the top 25 cm of soil (SML25) is suggested as a ‘trigger’ variable to prompt a response in terms of sale of trading stock (lambs and cattle) or capital stock (breeding ewes and cows). The algorithm may be used as a stand-alone decision aid, in which case the farmer needs to enter a sale or disposal priority list of stock classes (which may change during the season), the current stock on hand and current feed supply (expressed as the number of days grazing available). The algorithm is designed to be used iteratively to manage stock sales and utilisation of feed to the end of the season. The algorithm has also been included in a sheep farm simulation model. Implementation and testing within the Lincfarm model, set up for a hypothetical farm, shows that the algorithm generates appropriate sales profiles for scenarios involving different feed supply situations. This illustrates that it is possible to simulate the complex interactions between animals, pastures and management components in dryland grazing systems to investigate tactical adjustments in risk management strategies. Long term impacts of alternative policy:risk response combinations are described in a subsequent paper.
    Agricultural Systems 01/2014; 124:12–20.
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    ABSTRACT: Traditionally, primary grain production systems in China have been on a small scale and are associated with high costs and low labor productivity. Therefore, the substitution of small-scale farming with large-scale farming has been discussed in recent years. The North China Plain (NCP) is one of the primary grain production areas in China, and the winter wheat–summer maize double-cropping system dominates the region. Emergy evaluation based on life cycle assessment (LCA) was introduced in a farm case study to explore the ecological and economic effects of the wheat–maize double-cropping system on large-scale grain production compared with small-scale production. The results indicated that the emergy efficiency of maize production on the large-scale farm was 67.4–88.5% higher than that of common maize production systems, and the emergy efficiency of wheat production in the same farm decreased by 23.5–43.0% compared to other wheat production systems. The emergy sustainability index (ESI) of the double-cropping system was 64.0–84.5% lower than that reported by household farms. This is caused by large-scale farming requiring enormous emergy inputs from irrigation, fertilizers, and labor at the pre-sowing and growth stages of wheat production. Nevertheless, the scenario analysis results showed that the emergy efficiency and ESI of wheat production could be improved by 14.7–59.1% and 18.2–123.3%, respectively, using appropriate water, nutrient, and agronomic management measures. We found that the emergy efficiency of wheat production in this large-scale farm was 41.5% higher than in household farms in the same area if comprehensive improvement measures were applied. In conclusion, the ESI value of the double-cropping system in the NCP needs to be modified to increase the emergy efficiency of large-scale grain production farms. If this is accomplished, the large-scale farming pattern may be applicable for grain production in the NCP.
    Agricultural Systems 01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: This paper compares the organic and conventional citriculture systems in Spain from the perspective of their technical efficiency. The primary objective of the research is to compare the relative efficiency of these two systems in relation to a metafrontier that envelops both technologies. In addition, the article analyses how efficient each growing system is at using its own technology, that is, when farms’ efficiency is benchmarked in relation to the best practices in their group. Contrary to conventional practice, farms’ performance is analyzed in terms of specific growing tasks: soil and plant cover management, pruning, fertilization and phytosanitary treatments. The results obtained highlight that both organic and conventional orchards would be able to achieve substantial global cost savings if they reached the maximum level of efficiency that their technological restrictions permit. They also reveal that the gap between the levels of efficiency on the frontier of each of the systems and the metafrontier is much wider in the case of organic citriculture than in conventional growing systems. Consequently, there is evidence that the limitations imposed on organic citriculture by regulatory and technological determinants have a significant impact on the relative efficiency of organic orchards in citrus fruit production, with potential consequences as regards their financial viability.
    Agricultural Systems 01/2014;

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