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How to measure the agroecological performance of farming in order to assist with the transition process

  • Institut Agronomique Méditerranéen de Montpellier IAMM, France
  • Centre international de hautes études agronomiques méditerranéennes CIHEAM

Abstract and Figures

The use of plant protection products enables farmers to maximize economic performance and yields, but in return, the environment and human health can be greatly affected because of their toxicity. There are currently strong calls for farmers to reduce the use of these toxic products for the preservation of the environment and the human health, and it has become urgent to invest in more sustainable models that help reduce these risks. One possible solution is the transition toward agroecological production systems. These new systems must be beneficial economically, socially, and environmentally in terms of human health. There are many tools available, based on a range of indicators, for assessing the sustainability of agricultural systems on conventional farm holdings. These methods are little suitable to agroecological farms and do not measure the performance of agroecological transition farms. In this article, we therefore develop a model for the strategic definition, guidance, and assistance for a transition to agroecological practices, capable of assessing performance of this transition and simulating the consequences of possible changes. This model was built by coupling (i) a decision-support tool and a technico-economic simulator with (ii) a conceptual model built from the dynamics of agroecological practices. This tool is currently being tested in the framework of a Compte d'Affectation Spéciale pour le Développement Agricole et Rural (CASDAR) project (CASDAR: project launched in 2013 by the French Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, on the theme "collective mobilisation for agroecology," ) using data from farms, most of which are engaged in agroenvironmental process and reducing plant protection treatments since 2008.
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How to measure the agroecological performance of farming
in order to assist with the transition process
Meriam Trabelsi
&Elisabeth Mandart
&Philippe Le Grusse
&Jean-Paul Bord
Received: 10 March 2015 /Accepted: 22 October 2015 /Published online: 3 November 2015
#Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015
Abstract The use of plant protection products enables
farmers to maximize economic performance and yields, but
in return, the environment and human health can be greatly
affected because of their toxicity. There are currently strong
calls for farmers to reduce the use of these toxic products for
the preservation of the environment and the human health,and
it has become urgent to invest in more sustainable models that
help reduce these risks. One possible solution is the transition
toward agroecological production systems. These new sys-
tems must be beneficial economically, socially, and environ-
mentally in terms of human health. There are many tools
available, based on a range of indicators, for assessing the
sustainability of agricultural systems on conventional farm
holdings. These methods are little suitable to agroecological
farms and do not measure the performance of agroecological
transition farms. In this article, we therefore develop a model
for the strategic definition, guidance, and assistance for a tran-
sition to agroecological practices, capable of assessing perfor-
mance of this transition and simulating the consequences of
possible changes. This model was built by coupling (i) a
decision-support tool and a technico-economic simulator with
(ii) a conceptual model built from the dynamics of agroeco-
logical practices. This tool is currently being tested in the
framework of a Compte dAffectation Spéciale pour le
Développement Agricole et Rural (CASDAR) project
(CASDAR: project launched in 2013 by the French Ministry
of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, on the theme Bcollective
mobilisation for agroecology,^
Appel-a-projets-CASDAR) using data from farms, most of
which are engaged in agroenvironmental process and
reducing plant protection treatments since 2008.
Keywords Plant protection products .Performance .Risks .
Transition .Agroecological practices .Guidance .Assistance
After the Second World War, French agriculture was able to
adapt very efficiently to satisfy the increasing demand for
food. With help from the authorities (Common Agricultural
Policy (CAP), national laws to favor agriculture, favorable
food prices, etc.), farming practices underwent considerable
transformation, and the overall productivity of the agricultural
and agri-food sectors increased simultaneously.
Mechanization and the use of chemical inputs were the main
causes of these increased yields. The agricultural sector pro-
gressivelyadopted the use of plant protection products, which
profoundly changed the growing systems: herbicides to elim-
inate competition from weeds, insecticides to get rid of insect
pests and then, from 1970, the first fungicides to protect plants
against disease (Alix et al. 2005). These techniques for
boosting yields have been a great success, producing substan-
tial financial gains, but this success must not be allowed to
conceal their less favorable consequences, such as the heavy
dependence of agricultural systems on fossil fuels and the
Responsible editor: Hailong Wang
*Meriam Trabelsi;
CIHEAM-IAMM: Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of
Montpellier, 3191 Route de Mende, 34093 Montpellier CEDEX
5, France
University of Montpellier 3 (UM3), Route de Mende,
34199 Montpellier CEDEX 5, France
UMR GRED, Gouvernance, Risque, Environnement,
Développement (IRD/UM3), BP 64501, 34394 Montpellier CEDEX
5, France
Environ Sci Pollut Res (2016) 23:139156
DOI 10.1007/s11356-015-5680-3
negative impact on the environment and on human and animal
health. According to a report of the French Institute for the
Environment (IFEN) in 2004, pesticides were present in 96 %
of the measurement points selected for a general survey of the
quality of surface waters and in 61 % of those concerning
groundwater. A study published in the PNAS journal of the
American Academy of Sciences showed that 42 % of the local
biodiversity of invertebrates in the water courses may be
reduced by pesticides (Beketov et al. 2013). They can also
have multiple consequences on human health, especially
among direct users, ranging from an increase in the number
of children with autism to cancer or the loss of fertility.
According to National Institute of Health and Medical
Research (INSERM), people exposed to pesticides occupa-
tionally are more likely to develop Parkinsonsdisease
(Magdelaine 2013).
Conventional agriculture can be said to have reached its
limits, and it is accordingly time to think about other modes
of production to decrease or even eliminate all the risks.
Agriculture needs to find a way out of this excessive reliance
on pesticides, while still ensuring its future competitiveness.
In this context and for more than 20 years, the European
Union has gradually been developing legislation aimed at
protecting human health and preserving the environment, by
setting standards for contamination procedures to authorize
the use of potentially dangerous substances, and obligations
concerningthe ecological status of water and the environment
in general. The main regulations of this legislation are as fol-
lows (Aubertot et al. 2005):
&Directive EC 80-778 relative to the quality of drinking
water, fixing 0.1 μg/l as the limit content for each pesticide
and 0.5 μg/l for all pesticide substances in drinking water;
if these thresholds are exceeded, the authorities are
obliged to intervene.
&Directive 91/414/CEE relative to the marketing authoriza-
tions for crop protection products. First applied in 1993, this
Directive strengthened the toxicological and ecotoxicologi-
cal evaluation criteria applied in the approval of new com-
pounds and scheduled the reappraisal of existing products.
&The Water Framework Directive (2000/60/CE): adopted in
2000, the WFD obliges the Member States to achieve a
Bgood chemical and ecological status^of all surface waters,
and a Bgood chemical status^for all groundwaters, by 2015.
&The Pesticide Framework Directive (PFD): It is currently
being developed. It already serves as a guide, at national
level, an interdepartmental plan to reduce pesticide risk.
The committee stressed the need to include a community
objective of reducing the use of certain substances 25 % in
5 years and by 50 % by 2018.
In addition, in 2002, the European Commission issued a
Communication entitled BToward a thematic strategy on the
sustainable use of pesticides,^and ever since the public au-
thorities have constantly been implementing regulatory mea-
sures and strategies based on voluntary actions to reduce the
use of plant protection products and to move toward more
environmentally friendly farming practices. The latter in-
volves supporting the use of alternative techniques, or even
providing financial incentives for their adoption. Take the ex-
ample of Agri-Environmental Measures (AEM) and the crea-
tion of regional groups BPhytos^responsible for making the
diagnosis of risk areas of the region and animate actions for
the reduction of phytosanitary pollution on French pilot ba-
sins. Moreover, several European countries have already com-
mitted themselves to programs with targets for reducing the
use of pesticides, such as Denmark and Sweden in 1986 and
Norway in 1991 (Alix et al. 2005). In 2008, the French gov-
ernment held the Grenelle environmental forum to define fu-
ture policy regarding the environment and sustainable devel-
opment. The new policy aims to reduce greenhouse gas emis-
sions and waste, and boost organic agriculture by halving the
use of pesticides between 2008 and 2018. The Grenelle envi-
ronmental forum also produced the Ecophyto Plan, which
started in 2008 with the aim of reducing the use of plant
protection products by 50 % if possible (Bellassen 2015).
However, 6 years after its start, this plan has not had the
desired results, since the overall quantitative indicators for
monitoring use do not show a downward trend. Despite the
efforts deployed, public policies have not succeeded in
shifting the paradigm in terms of the excessive use of pesti-
cides nor in achieving the goals set. Sustainable agriculture
considers the environment itself as a production target and
takes account of local stakeholders and the maintenance of
social ties, while favoring a reduction in inputs. It recognizes
that it has not only productive functions but also environmen-
tal and social functions (Terrier 2009). It is therefore necessary
to encourage all participants, and primarily farmers, to favor
more sustainable agricultural projects. To do this, it is neces-
sary to develop alternatives to conventional methods and
adopt innovative cropping practices and systems. The consid-
eration of environmental and health issues requires to accom-
pany the farmers in new manners to produce. The innovative
cropping systems are more efficient systems which answer the
emergent stakes of the sustainable development, namely re-
ducing the use of pesticides, the conservation of the quality of
water and its quantity, and the improvement of the energy
performances (Gonzales 2013). For these new systems to be
implemented, it would be necessary to modify the current
practices of management, to optimize them and to try to im-
prove the existing systems by substituting the conventional
methods of chemical fight by others that are not chemical. It
is thus necessary to move toward a new wave of technical,
social, and organizational innovations allowing to answer the
current issues (Messéan et al. 2010). Indeed, the production of
quality products while respecting the environment requires the
140 Environ Sci Pollut Res (2016) 23:139156
combination of particular agronomic techniques, most of
which are known and some are innovative (Gonzales 2013).
It is a question of setting up an innovative design approach, in
which the objectives of the systems that need to be built and
their components are not inevitably determined in advance
(Meynard 2008). The innovative conception consists in
introducing new techniques and cultures to build new
combinations (Gonzales 2013).
Between conventional farming and a more sustainable ag-
riculture, the road is wide open for the development of inter-
mediate modes of production with the same objective but with
different production techniques. This requires changes based
not only on reducing the use of pesticides but also on the
degree to which they can incorporate new practices inspired
by the nature and features of ecosystems. BIntegrated^agricul-
ture is characterized by the voluntary limitation of the use of
pesticides and chemical fertilizers, while Bintegrated^agricul-
ture aims to replace as many external inputs as possible by
natural regulation processes. Agriculture at an intermediate
stage prohibits the use of chemical inputs but uses organic
products. However, this form of agriculture is also starting to
reach its limits: there is still substantial mechanization, little
account is taken of biodiversity, and even copper and sulfur,
products that are authorized for this mode of production, will
be regulated in the near future because of their harmful effects
on the soil. One possible solution is agroecology. In this con-
text, and following the assessment of the agricultural develop-
ment policy proposed by the French Minister of Agriculture in
the framework of the interdepartmental committee for the
modernization of public action, future agricultural develop-
ment must enhance economic, ecological, and social perfor-
mance of agriculture thus requiring the involvement of re-
search and experimental programs and measures to support
farmers to move toward ecological intensification therefore
toward agroecological transition (Potier 2014).
Ecological intensification is a concept that aims at finding
solutions to increase world agricultural production by unit
area and maintain the ecological services of agroecosystems
(Bonny 2010;Léger2014). It is supposed to lead to a produc-
tive agriculture, more efficient inputs and less harmful to the
environment. Indeed, based on the intensive use of productive
natural ecosystem functions, ecological intensification seeks
to achieve returns comparable to those of conventional agri-
culture while reducing the use of chemical inputs and degra-
dation the environment (Cassman 1999;Chevassus-au-Louis
and Griffon 2008). In this concept, natural processes are
strongly highlighted as factors of production that can at least
partially replace chemical inputs and fossil energy-consuming
equipment (Dugué et al. 2011). Agroecology or ecological
intensification, we speak about the same notion. The ecolog-
ical intensification is widely inspired by the organic farming,
the agroecology, or the agriculture of conservation (Léger
2014). It can take many forms, but the most common image
is the substitution of chemical inputs by natural processes
(association of crops, cultivation under plant cover)
(Griffon 2013). According to Chevassus-au-Louis and
Griffon (2008), ecological intensification aims at setting up
innovative and sustainable systems of production on new sci-
entific bases, and agricultural techniques of the agroecology.
The principal questions raised are currently as follows: (i)
How to manage the transition from a conventional system to
an agroecological system? (ii) Are these new systems suffi-
ciently successful in economic, social, environmental, and
health terms? It is therefore necessary to find ways to assess
the performance of these systems. There are many tools avail-
able, based on a range of indicators, for assessing the
sustainability of agricultural systems on conventional
farm holdings (e.g., Farm Sustainability Indicators
(IDEA), Network for Sustainable Agriculture (RAD),
ARBRE, Agri-environmental Diagnosis Linking Environment
and Territorial Contract operating (DIALECTE))(Navarrete
et al. 2011), but (iii) Are these methods capable of measuring
the performance of farms making the transition to agroecology?
If not, (iv) What methodology can be adopted to measure the
performance of a farms transition to agroecological practices?
What do we mean by agroecology?
The term agroecology was first coined in 1928 by a
Czechoslovak agronomist, Basil M. Bensin (18811973)
(Hollard et al. 2012). However, it took many years for the
agroecological movement to emerge. Until the 1960s, this
term referred only to a scientific discipline related to agricul-
tural production and plant protection. From then on, under the
impulse of environmental movements contesting productivist
farming methods, agroecology emerged in the 1980s as a set
of agricultural practices and quickly became associated with
emerging social movements, since when different branches of
agroecology have developed. Agroecology was boosted in the
early days by support from agronomists and ecologists, and
later from geographers, historians, anthropologists, and
farmers, before achieving, in the last few decades, a multidi-
mensional vision that includes environmental, social, eco-
nomic, and ethical aspects (Bellon et al. 2009; Lavorel and
Boule 2010; Pérez-Vitoria 2011).
Agroecology refers at the same time to a scientific disci-
pline (the application of ecological science to the study, de-
sign, and management of sustainable agricultural systems
based on diversified practices aimed at optimizing the natural
processes favorable to production and ensuring the sustain-
ability of the resource) (Altieri 1995; Mcintyre et al. 2009), a
social movement (sustainable agriculture, which respects the
environment, is economically successful, and fosters human
development, particularly with regard to food security and the
health of populations), and a set of practices (increased
Environ Sci Pollut Res (2016) 23:139156 141
production while respecting the balance of nature, limiting the
use of chemical inputs and fossil fuels and emphasizing
recycling) (Lavorel and Boule 2010). It is a rural development
approach that allows to increase the autonomy of the pro-
ducers (Altieri 2002). According to Francis et al. (2003),
BAgroecology is the ecology of the food system in its entirety,
the scientific substratumof a sustainable development thought
on the long term, without hierarchy between economic, social,
cultural, environmental dimensions.^It was having for objec-
tive the development of systems of sustainable food (Horlings
and Marsden 2011).
Agroecology involves making the best use of the functions
of ecosystems and ecological processes to (i) design a produc-
tive agriculture that is less harmful to the environment and
human health, (ii) avoid the overexploitation of natural re-
sources, and (iii) reduce the implementation of agricultural
practices based on the intensive use of pesticides, chemical
fertilizers, and water (Leterme and Morvan 2009; Bonny
2011). In addition, it aims to harmonize the farming system
with the productive potential and the physical limits of the
surrounding landscape, recycle, and optimize the use of nutri-
ents and energy on the farm, enhance beneficial biological
synergies among the components of agrobiodiversity, and di-
versify species and genetic resources in the agroecosystem
(Silici 2014). This means maximizing the involvement of na-
ture as a production factor by protecting its capacity for re-
newal. It is a more complex process than a simple substitution
of inputs, involving rather the replacement of traditional pro-
duction factors with different ecosystem functions. The tran-
sition to agroecology involves major changes requiring stra-
tegic choices by the farmer. It may be necessary to change the
entire way of running the farm (introduction of livestock on
the farm, new agricultural techniques, etc.). Agroecology im-
plies the management of agricultural techniques and land-
scape improvements much more complex than the manage-
ment of conventional agriculture. The management should not
be on the scale of the plot only, but it also concerns all areas
which are characterized byecological interactions (farms, wa-
tersheds). These techniques aim to improve agricultural
systems by imitating natural processes and emphasizing the
multifunctional role of agriculture. Their common feature is
even weakly zero-use of external inputs (fertilizers and pesti-
cides) (Silici 2014). Generally speaking, agroecological prac-
tices consist of farming approaches that are inspired by some
or all the objectives of agroecology. There is a set of agricul-
tural techniques available for a wide variety of purposes: (i)
Techniques for restoring the fertility of the soil and preserving
its quality as the use of conservation agriculture or sowing
under plant cover that correspond to the simultaneous imple-
mentation of the three principles at the plot level: the mini-
mum tillage, crop rotations, and permanent soil cover (Altieri
1995; Robin 2012). There are still the uses of green manure.
These are crops to be buried in the surface soil, green stage
(young) in order to increase its fertility (e.g., buckwheat, oats,
legumes, and fall rye). Green manure allows to fix nitrogen in
legume, to increase organic matter in the soil, and to fight
against wind and water erosion and weeds (Hollard et al.
2012). Crop rotation does as well, which allows to keep the
nutrients from one season to another and enrich the soil or-
ganic matter (Silici 2014). (ii) Techniques for the management
of water resources as the use of trees and vegetation along
rivers, construction of collection systems and water storage,
permanent soil cover to reduce evaporation, the choice of
varieties more drought resistant crops, etc. (De Schutter
2011). (iii) Techniques to control the development of weeds
and attacks by pests such as the establishment of agroecolog-
ical infrastructures (hedges, grass strips, groves) which is a
shelter for diverse wildlife (mammals, birds, reptiles, insects,
etc.) and serve as its reproduction space. These agroecological
infrastructures shelter not only insect pests but also their pred-
ators, auxiliary controlling crop pests. There is also the asso-
ciation of crops in the same field that fosters mutual aid be-
tween plants by limiting pest attacks. Indeed, the diversity of
their colors, their scents, their sizes, and their pores, cultures
hamper pest parasites and prevents their proliferation and
identification of their host plant (Hollard et al. 2012). Soil
cover and mulching also allow the improvement of the bio-
logical control of pests (Silici 2014).
To meet the objectives of agroecological transition, it is
necessary to combine local know-how, traditional farming
knowledge developed to cope with the particular situation of
the population in a particular region, and new scientific
knowledge generated by scientific research in agronomy, ecol-
ogy, and other disciplines. In many areas of the world, tradi-
tional farmers have developed complex farming systems
adapted to the local conditions in order to meet their subsis-
tence needs, without depending on mechanization, chemical
fertilizers, pesticides, or other technologies of modern agricul-
tural science (Altieri et al. 2011). The traditional agricultural
know-how is a basic knowledge; it needs to be improved
through innovation, training, and coaching. The objective is
to produce otherwise and, to achieve this objective, we must
put in place new methods of production, innovative methods.
The innovation consists in applying an innovative reflec-
tion to the whole economic model of a company to generate a
new value for both the customer and the company, by chang-
ing the business strategy (Tucker 2001; Johnston 2003). It
became a major social issue. By launching new products and
services on the market or by changing their production pro-
cesses, companies are in direct interaction with the citizens
and the public authorities. This is a permanent movement that
mobilizes all stakeholders (Alter 2010). According to Ngo
Nonga (2008), innovation Bis a dynamic and creative process
by which a social group appropriates a novelty and co- con-
structed in time, taking into account various dimensions (tech-
nical, cultural, economic, and organizational) and local know
142 Environ Sci Pollut Res (2016) 23:139156
how^. Based on new products and new practices, innovation
can thus present the application of technological, institutional,
and human discoveries in production processes (Poole and
Penrose Buckley 2006).
Innovation can have many forms. A strategic innovation
implies a radical change and is not subject to an incremental
logic. In other words, it leads to a new way of playing the
game. A breakthrough innovation does not imply a radical
change, but it consists in redefining rules of the game and
destabilizing market conditions in its favor. It is a change of
concept with regard to the traditional approaches (Schoettl
1994). Innovation is identified and characterized in terms of
certain criteria among which the nature. These natures can be
very diverse. We distinguish essentially (i) the technological
innovation (consists in creating a new technology or in improv-
ing a former), (ii) the innovation of use (consists in introducing
changes into the way of using the product orof consuming the
service), and (iii) the social innovation (consists in developing
new answers to social needs by involving the participation and
the cooperation of the concerned actors, in particular, the users
and the users). Innovation appears as the average privileged
person to assure the development (Fernez-Walch and Romon
2013); it was developed to solve the problems with which the
society is at present confronted (out of the economic crisis,
environmental protection, conservation of human health,
etc.). In this context, agroecological transition is considered
as an innovation.The introduction of new agroecological tech-
niques in an agricultural production system can consist in a
pleteness of the system of production (agricultural tech-
niques, agricultural calendars, material, organization,
etc.). However, in certain cases, this introduction can con-
sist in an innovation of break, where the change is made
at the level of the agricultural techniques only to promote
less vulnerable systems and more efficient (e.g., perma-
nent soil cover, setting up agroecological infrastructure,
biological control). Thus, the agroecological transition
indicates a technological innovation by introducing new
agricultural technologies (material for a more suitable me-
chanical weeding, scientific research on plants and crops,
etc.), an innovation of use by eliminating the use of pes-
ticides and by resorting to the use of the other alternatives
allowing to fight against the enemies of the cultures (e.g.,
plants of services, green manure, etc.). It also presents a
social innovation by emphasizing social problems (envi-
ronmental pollution, degradation of human health) and by
trying to bring solutions.
The process of innovation is not a linear process, where
research stages of design, development, and marketing follow
one another. This process is collective and interactive. Indeed,
it results from different relationships that may exist between
these stages and can find its origin in several sources, inclu-
ding research organizations, development agencies, and
sometimes among farmers (Reau and Doré 2008). There are
thus two types of innovation: (i) endogenous or peasant
innovation taking its origin from farmers and (ii) exogenous
innovation stemming from research, popularization, private
companies, etc. (CSAO 2005). Indeed, the debate on the mul-
tiple sources of innovation has highlighted the issue of the
involvement of farmers in the innovation process (Ngo
Nonga 2008). The recognition of farmers as stakeholders,
not only as beneficiaries but also as sources of traditional
knowledge and experimenters, resulted in approaches to
favor the farmer. The effective participation of the farmers
allows to realize studies on the systems of culture, to
recognize their complexity and their specificity, and to
involve farmers in decision-making on sustainability.
Studies in the whole of Africa show how small farmers
managed to innovate and improve their sources of in-
come, even in unfavorable economic and agroenvi-
ronmental conditions, by associating with the research
(Reij and Waters-Bayer 2001). It is then necessary to
gather the efforts of all actors and develop a network of
skills allowing the exchange of knowledge and know-
Developing and adopting agroecology
The concept of agroecology may vary depending on the geo-
graphical areas. In countries where the consumption of chem-
ical inputs and mechanization are not highly developed be-
cause they are often too expensive or not available, the small-
scale application of traditional techniques that are close to ag-
roecology is very widespread. In developed countries such as
the USA, France, and Germany, where conventional agricul-
ture is dominant, agroecological approaches have been devel-
oping for several decades in order to reduce the excessive use
of pesticides (Dupin 2011). Case studies from Cuba, Brazil,
and Africa are presented to demonstrate how the agroecologi-
cal development by adopting agroecological techniques, based
on diversity, synergy, integration, and participation of the com-
munity, proves to be conceivably one of the only viable options
to meet present and future food needs (Altieri et al. 2011). In
western Burkina Faso (Tuy Province), the Fertipartenaires
project (FOOD/2007/144-075) was carried out with the aim
of integrating intensive agriculture and livestock, using
composting and recycling of the forage biomass Vall et al.
2011). One example of the association of crops on the same
plot can be found in Mexico: this is the milpa
system, which
Milpa: Mexican system of mixed cropping dating from before Spanish
colonisation. It refers to a complex combination of agronomic practices,
crop associations and rotation sequences. The most fundamental compo-
nents of the system are a cluster of maize, bean, and squash landraces
planted in association Bellon and Berthaud (2004).
Environ Sci Pollut Res (2016) 23:139156 143
involves sowing maize, beans, and pumpkins together, with the
three crops forming a complementary system (Robin 2012).
In savanna areas, farmers are very attached to productivist
models. This choice can be explained by several factors: (i)
mineral fertilization remains efficient and effective in those
areas where the risk of drought during the cycle are lower than
in Sahelian zone, (ii) the use of mineral fertilizers can easily
cover several hectares per farm if the services of supply and
the credit are functional, which is less easy with organic fer-
tilizers that are not currently available in this region, (iii) the
conventional model is less expensive in manual labor and in
times of work than other models. But for a long time, sub-
Saharan Africa has been considered a relatively sparsely pop-
ulated continent but especially with large reserves of arable
land not highlighted. Therefore, the need to increase land pro-
ductivity especially as soil fertility constituted a major prob-
lem in this region. In order to do this, researchers gathered to
contribute in a scientific project concerning the implications of
ecological intensification in the agrosilvopastoral systems in
cotton savanna regions of Burkina Faso and Mali. For these
researchers, the use of the production of environmental ser-
vices and the intensification of production methods constitute
a solution. Indeed, the use of organic fertilizers allows to in-
crease the fertility of grounds, although its impact in terms of
surface concerned on the maintenance of the fertility and for
the fertilization of the cultures on the scale of the exploitations
remains still very limited. Thus, crop-livestock integration is
one of the important ways even if it is sometimes limited
where farmers maintain their purchases offeed despite the rise
in their prices, which led the project to work for the increase of
the production of fodder biomass in certain parts of countries
to reduce these purchases. This integration enables a strong
valuation of the local resources (biomass, energy, nutrients,
and carbon) and an increase of the efficiency, the autonomy,
and the global production of the systems of production
(Dugué et al. 2011,2012).
Agroecology is today supported by an ever-broader range
of experts from the scientific community as well as by inter-
national organizations such as the Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United
Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The agroecology
movement concerns not only alter-globalization hardliners
but also supporters in the public at large and throughout the
world, French associations such as Earth and Humanism,
International AGRISUD, and other associations in the Sahel:
the Association for Research and Training in Agroecology
(ARFA) in Burkina Faso, the Agroecological Federation of
Benin (FAEB), etc. (Korogo 2011).
Since 1990, the agroecological movement has been devel-
oping in France. At that time, there had been little scientific
work on agroecology, but research has been continuous since
then, and in this context, France hosted the first international
symposium of agroecology in Albi, in November 2008. In the
light of its benefits, agroecology had become the central ob-
jective of the new agricultural policy. In December 2012, the
French Ministry of Agriculture launched an agroecology pro-
ject whose objective is to bring the benefits of agroecology to
the whole of France with a three-pronged strategy to improve
economic, environmental, and social performance, so that by
2025, the majority of agricultural holdings may be engaged in
the transition to agroecological systems. This project is based
on six national plans, one of which is the Ecophyto Plan. This
plan does not address the issue of human health, whereas
agroecology is greatly concerned with the effects of pesticides
on human health and especially that of users. Ecophyto has
not managed to meet its planned objectives, but it must not be
abandoned, but rather redesigned by bringing it more in line
with other public policies and economic strategies. This
change in objectives led in 2013 to the adoption of a new
version of the CAP and the passing of a new French law for
the future of agriculture, designed to give greater impetus to
the development of agroecology and provide the Ecophyto
Plan with a new instrument: a system to certify reductions in
the use of plant protection products (CEPP). The new Plan
aims not only to halve the uses of plant protection products,
in a two-stage process, 25%by2020and50 % by 2025,
but also to reduce the risks to human health and the environ-
ment related to these uses (Potier 2014).
Assessment of the sustainability of farms
According to the Our Common Future report (1987), sustain-
able development is Bdevelopment that meets the needs of the
present without compromising the ability of future generations
to meet their own needs^(Brunel 2004). Since 1982, the con-
cept of sustainable development has won a permanent place in
the policies for cooperation at the global level, with the first
Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in1992 and the Johannesburg
Earth Summit in 2002. Although, sustainability within agri-
cultural systems is widely discussed and is viewed in interna-
tional fora as essential for the transition toward global sustain-
able development (UNCED 1992;OECD2001). The concept
encompasses a set of approaches identified with three main
themes: (i) produce more, (ii) distribute better and combat
poverty, and (iii) preserve nature. In this context, sustainable
farming is based on three essential functions: producing goods
and services, managing the landscape, and playing a role in
the rural world (Francis et al. 1990). Sustainable farms accept
these overall positions and aim to reduce or even eliminate the
use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
The concept of sustainable development is closely linked to
that of assessment, which involves the implementation of
comprehensive approaches and multiple criteria to take into
account the different components of sustainability. To better
understand the strategies of farmers and improve the advice
144 Environ Sci Pollut Res (2016) 23:139156
they are given, it is essential to assess, in a wide range of
socio-economic and agroecological contexts, the performance
of existing or innovative systems, as well as their progress
toward sustainable agriculture. As a matter of fact, the
European Commission supports the elaboration of sustainabil-
ity indicators in agriculture with a view first to orientate pol-
icies toward sustainable farming and second to assess them
(European Commission 2001). A sustainability assessment
relevant for policy makers should be based on indicators and
parameters describing the important features of the environ-
mental, economic, and social aspects of a system (Park and
Seaton 1996; Ottaviani et al. 2001; Parris and Kates 2003). In
this context, several tools and methods based on standard set
indicators concerning these aspects were developed since the
90s to estimate the durability of the agriculture. These
methods differ in their approach of evaluation of the durabil-
ity. There are methods which base themselves on a system of
notation, others on values of reference and thresholds, and
certain on the linear programming (Binder and Feola 2010).
The majority of these methods are intended for the conven-
tional exploitations.
These methods of assessment are able to identify the
strengths and weaknesses of production systems in order to
plan the necessary scenarios for intervention and the corre-
sponding public projects and policies. These methods differ
from one another in terms of the purpose of the assessment,
the scales for analysis and evaluation (farm, field), the pro-
duction systems evaluated, the nature of the data collected, the
type of indicators (pressure, impact, simple, aggregated),
the rating scales and the threshold values (Binder and Feola
2010; Terrier et al. 2010), the context of use (external review
process (post), partnership approach), and the aggregation
methods of scores. The choice of indicators is very important.
Indeed, indicators used to assess agricultural sustainability
must be scientifically sound, relevant to the issue being
studied, sensitive, easily accessible, and comprehensible
(Girardin et al. 1999). The methods used can be divided
into three groups: (i) those used to assess the sustainabil-
ity of agriculture in economic, social, and environmental
dimensions, such as those used by RAD, IDEA, and
Response-Inducing Sustainability Evaluation (RISE)
(Grenz et al. 2009); (ii) methods with both an environ-
mental and economic dimension such as those used by
Sustainability of Energy Crops (DCE) and Attributes of
Agroecological Systems (ASA), and (iii) methods that
only examine the environmental impact of agriculture,
as is the case with the DIALECTE, Indicators of
Overall Diagnosis per Field (INDIGO), and Overall
Diagnosis per Holding (DIAGE) (Bekhouche-Guendouz
2011). These assessment tools are used regularly in
France and abroad by various agencies providing advice
to farmers (Chambers of Agriculture, management centers,
cooperatives, etc.).
However, despite the development of organic farming and
certifiable production standards as Bgood agricultural prac-
tices,^and their increasing importance, there are few tools
capable of assessing the sustainability of this kind of agricul-
ture (Grenz et al. 2009; Gafsi and Favreau 2010). Indeed, there
are some tools that have been developed recently to assess the
sustainability of organic farms and those in agroecological
transition as for example the tool of agroecological diagnosis
of the exploitations which is realized by the Ministry of
Agriculture Agri-Food and Forest and ACTA (Agricultural
Technical Coordination Association). It is intended for the
farmers and for the agricultural advisers who wonder about
the performances of their exploitations and wish to evolve in
an agroecological project. It allows them to reflect about the
performances of their exploitations and to estimate their agro-
ecological progress by estimating Bthe agroecological intensi-
ty^of every implemented practice (high, medium, or low).
The results of this tool are not used for the controls or the
allocation of the aid, but they just serve to raise questions of
reflection to develop the system of production (Hondet 2015).
The assessment of the sustainability of conventional farms
by using the classic tools can be done on three scales: agro-
ecological, social, and economic. To meet the needs of sus-
tainable development and be integrated into a multidimen-
sional approach, assessing the sustainability of organic and
agroecological farms must be on the same dimensions. We
asked whether the existing evaluation tools were adapted to
measure the performance of agroecological transition farms.
To answer this question, three conventional methods for
assessing sustainability (IDEA, DIALECTE, and RAD) were
tested on three organic farms located in the Ardèche and
Drôme departments in the Rhône-Alpes Region to check their
suitability (Table 1). The results obtained show that some
indicators were relevant, others not.
The IDEA method, designed as a self-assessment frame-
work for farmers, provides operational content for the assess-
ment of agricultural sustainability (Zahm et al. 2008). This
method involves dividing objectives into groups according
to three scales of sustainability: an agroecological scale, a
socio-territorial scale, and an economic scale, each rated out
of 100. It uses 42 quantitative and qualitative indicators. It is
based on the allocation of a numerical rating relative to a
ceiling or maximum value for each indicator, with this infor-
mation then being aggregated to obtain three scores
Tabl e 1 Characteristics of three farms tested
Farms Department Area (ha) Crops
1 Ardèche 6.5 Vegetables, orchards
2 Ardèche 170 Field crops, olive trees,
vineyard, and pigs
3 Drôme 1.8 Orchards
Environ Sci Pollut Res (2016) 23:139156 145
corresponding to the three scales used to characterize sustain-
ability. Of the three scores obtained, the score of the lowest
scale expresses the level of sustainability of the farm (Vilain
The application of the IDEA method shows that for farms 1
and 2, the limiting factor of their sustainability is the economic
dimension, as the scores obtained on this scale are the lowest
(57/100 and 34/100). According to this method, these farms
are barely viable, economically, whereas for farm 3, the agro-
ecologicalscale constitutes its weak point (59/100), and it will
consequently need to focus primarily on this aspect (Fig. 1).
These results also show that there is a phase shift of the scores
between the three scales: agroecological, socio-territorial, and
economic. This imbalance can be explained by two points: (i)
the analysis of the agroecology and socio-territorial scales,
with 18 indicators each, is finer than that of the economic
scale, which consists of only 6 indicators, and (ii) the maxi-
mum ratings for the indicators of the agroecology scale are
reached more easily than the indicators of the other scales.
Solagro (2000) developed DIALECTE for the evaluation
of the environment at farm level by means of a comprehen-
sive, simple, and rapid approach. This method is an improved
version of the BSolagro Diagnostic^proposed by Pointereau
et al. (1999). The method can be applied to all agricultural
production systems. It is based on an environmental assess-
ment with no consideration of any economic or social aspects.
It approaches the subject from two viewpoints (Solagro 2006):
1) A comprehensive approach: this is the analysis of the
overall production systemand of the agricultural practices
assessed on a basis of 100 points in total from 20 indica-
tors grouped according to subcriteria. It is divided into
two categories: the mix of productions (70 points) and
management of inputs (30 points).
2) A thematic approach: this is a measure of the impact of
agricultural activity on the environment. It highlights the
strengths and weaknesses of the holding from 23 indica-
tors grouped into four themes (water, soil, biodiversity,
and consumption of non-renewable natural resources).
Each of these themes is given a score out of 20.
The results returned using the DIALECTE method showed
differences in the agroecological findings compared with the
IDEA method. The results of DIALECTE method show that
the farm n°2 is the most sustainable for the agroecological
scale (62/100), followed by the farm n°3 (51.7/100), while
the farm n°1 occupies the last place (Fig. 2). For the environ-
mental scale, the IDEA method gave a different ranking where
the maximum score was achieved for farms 1 and 2 does not
allow to evaluate the difference in performance on this scale
between the two farms. These results are explained by the
difference between the two methods on (i) the weight of indi-
cators: for example, the Bsoil cover^indicator used in both
methods, is rated out of 4 by IDEA and out of 10 by
DIALECTE; and (ii) the way of aggregation of indicators.
The RAD method is a non-institutional network of
farmers groups, mainly in the west of France, who vol-
untarily commit to sustainable agriculture. The main ob-
jective of this method is to improve the effectiveness of
the systems regarding ecological, social, and economical
issues. It is based on 18 indicators spread over three
areas: economic sustainability (7 indicators), social sus-
tainability (5 indicators), and environmental sustainabil-
ity (6 indicators). The indicators are scored from 0 to 5
according to predefined scales (CIVAM 2010).
The application of the third method RAD gave oppo-
site results to those obtained by the IDEA method.
Indeed, according to RAD method, farm 1 is more sus-
tainable on the economic scale (the area of the radar
chart for this scale is larger than for the two other
scales) (Figs. 3,4,and5), whereas the IDEA method
shows that this scale is the limiting factor for the sus-
tainability of the farm. It is necessary to underline that
in the face figure below, the social durability includes
only 4 indicators instead of 5, because the data neces-
sary to calculate the fifth indicator (contribution to the
Fig. 1 Result of calculating the
sustainability of three farms by
the IDEA method
146 Environ Sci Pollut Res (2016) 23:139156
employment) are missing. In addition, farm 3 is more
sustainable for agroecological scale while it is less sus-
tainable for this scale according to the method IDEA.
This result is due to the difference in weighting given
to the indicators by the two methods.
The traditional methods of assessing the sustainability
of conventional farms appear little adapted for assessing
that of organic farms and those making the transition to
agroecology. Indeed, the evaluation of the durability of
three organic farms which was made by means of the
methods IDEA, the DIALECT, and RAD gave different,
contradictory, and little relevant results. These results
reflect a difference in the weight of indicators and the
way of their aggregation of indicators from a method to
the other one: for the same scale, we have not obtained
the same ranking of farms (e.g., both IDEA and
DIALECTE methods), the same applies to the economic
scale with IDEA and RAD methods. These results re-
flect also an imbalance in the evaluation performed on
the three dimensions (agroecological, economic, and
socio-territorial) which is due to the number of indica-
tors and their weights which are different from one di-
mension to another. For example, the maximum score
on the agroecological or environmental scale is reached
quickly; the use of a single biological or agroecological
practice is assigned a high rating to the corresponding
indicator. This causes an overestimation of the environ-
mental indicators of agroecological scale relative to so-
cial and especially economic indicators (e.g., the IDEA
In order to confirm the results obtained, Binder and
Feola (2010) presented in their paper the results of the
analysis of approaches to agriculture based on the com-
parison of seven sustainability assessment methods. This
analysis shows how these approaches do not take into
account two elements, namely multifunctionality and mul-
tidimensionality of agriculture. Moreover, research on
sustainability assessment in agriculture has so far
highlighted four main shortcomings: (i) multifunctionality
in agriculture is often not specifically addressed in sus-
tainability assessments (Rossing et al. 2007); (ii) the im-
balance regarding the ecological, economic, and social
dimensions of sustainability, insofar as the ecological as-
pect is favored (Von Wirén-Lehr 2001). Indeed, some of
these methods tend to focus on ecological aspects or try to
include as well to some extent the economic and social
perspectives of sustainability but do not consider the
multifunctionality of agriculture. In addition, there is an
imbalance in the modeling and assessment work per-
formed regarding the three dimensions of sustainability,
namely, ecological, economic, and social aspects in favor
of the ecological one.
These traditional methods of assessing the sustain-
ability of conventional farms appear little adapted for
the assessment of organic farms and those making the
transition to agroecology. They are not sensitive and
Fig. 2 Result of the calculation of the overall approach to the
agroecological scale of three farms by the DIALECTE method
Fig. 3 Result of calculating the
economic sustainability of farm 1
by the RAD method
Environ Sci Pollut Res (2016) 23:139156 147
fine enough to differentiate farms there between. They
take little account of the specificity of organic farming.
It is therefore necessary to take into account of biolog-
ical and agroecological aspects by developing tools to
assess the sustainability of farms integrating these
All existing tools (old traditional methods and new
methods) are not dynamic, they provide static results without
any possible evolution. They allow to have an idea about the
general situation of the holding (its strengths and weaknesses),
but by contrast, they do not allow to project into the future by
offering possible alternative solutions and simulating their
consequences. Thus, almost all the different methods that exist
are generalists, non-specific, and based on a set of pressure
indicators which do not measure the impact of different agri-
cultural practices by putting the emphasis generally on the
environmental aspect. Where from, the innovative character
of this study is to develop a dynamic model specific for guid-
ing and supporting the agroecological transition process
allowing to estimate the performance of the transition, to pro-
pose alternative tracks to improve the situation of the exploi-
tation, and to simulate the consequences of possible changes.
A specific model which takes into account the type
of exploitation (mode of production, system of produc-
tion, agricultural productions) and of the context in
which is situated the exploitation. In addition, this mod-
el is based on a combination of pressure and impact
indicators: indicators inspiredbydifferenttoolsfor
assessing conventional farms to which we add new spe-
cific indicators for agroecology developed by ourselves
and from literature a search, and developed according to
the context of the study. These indicators do not con-
cern the environment and the economy only, but they
are divided into five topics: the environment, crop pro-
tection, health, society, and the economy.
Performance and assistance for a project to make
the transition to an agroecological system
It is therefore clearly necessary to design a dynamic tool spe-
cific for defining strategy, guiding, and supporting the transi-
tion to agroecology. The efficiency of the transition process to
agroecology can be assessed at three moments: before, during,
Fig. 4 Result of calculating the
social sustainability of farm 1 by
the RAD method
Fig. 5 Result of calculating the
environmental sustainability of
farm 1 by the RAD method
148 Environ Sci Pollut Res (2016) 23:139156
and after the transition, and can cover five topics: the environ-
ment, crop protection, health, society, and economic conse-
quences. In other words, to assess whether the farms transi-
tion to agroecology is efficient or not, for these five topics, by
assigning them performance indices. This study was carried
out by coupling (i) a decision-support tool; a technico-
economic simulator entitled BOlympe^(Attonaty et al. 2010)
with (ii) a conceptual model built from the dynamics of agro-
ecological practices.
The transition to agroecology is a dynamic process
characterized by different relationships between the objec-
tives, agricultural techniques, means of implementation,
and impacts, and in the framework of which changes in
the level of these relationships can occur at any time.
Each agricultural technique has one or more means of
implementation and can have one or more impacts. A
change in the agricultural techniques then leads to chang-
es in the means of implementation and in the impacts. The
classic indicators cannot respond to this dynamic process
which can vary depending on the type of technical paths
and agricultural practices chosen. On the basis of this
dynamic, and after establishing the objectives and agricul-
tural techniques, indicators providing information on the
efficiency of the transition to agroecology can be created.
Performance values are assigned to the different indicators
to position the farms relative to an Bagroecological perfor-
mance threshold^and to compare them with one another.
Depending on the results obtained, improvement scenari-
os can be proposed. Changes to the objectives and agri-
cultural techniques will be considered accordingly. A sim-
ulation of the consequences of the different possible sce-
narios concerning agroecological practices (planting of
hedges or longer crop rotations), climate change
(drought), and economic changes (a drop in sale prices,
lower costs of pesticides) is therefore necessary in order
to reassess the farms technico-economic situation. The
coupling between Olympe and the conceptual model
based on the objectives, agricultural techniques, and cal-
culated indicators provides a clearer understanding of the
operation of the farm, an explanation of the results obtain-
ed, and helps identify the factors contributing directly or
indirectly to the efficiency of the transition to agroecology
(Fig. 6).
Agroecological performance must satisfy a maximum
of objectives. Meeting these objectives requires the im-
plementation of a predefined set of agricultural tech-
niques (Table 2). It should be noted that a given agri-
cultural technique can meet several objectives. The im-
plementation of agricultural techniques requires certain
resources. The implementation of particular techniques
can be expected to produce certain results and impacts,
which can be technical, environmental, economic, and
social. An interaction matrix shows the relationships be-
tween the objectives, the agricultural techniques, the
means of implementation, and the impacts. A set of
indicators is determined to measure these impacts. The
different items (objectives, agricultural techniques,
means, impacts, and indicators) in the conceptual model
are interrelated (Fig. 7).
Establishment of indicators to measure
the performance of agroecological transition
Identification of indicators
A set of indicators divided into five topics was
established to evaluate the performance of the transition
to agroecology (Table 3). These indicators have two
origins: (i) indicators inspired by different tools for
Fig. 6 Overview of the tool
(coupling Olympe and the
conceptual model)
Environ Sci Pollut Res (2016) 23:139156 149
assessing conventional farms (Solagro 2006;Vilain
2008;CIVAM2010) and (ii) new indicators developed
on the basis of a literature search and the context of the
study (Eaton 1993; Walsh and Jnderson 2006; Lepage
et al. 2008). They were selected according to their rel-
evance, their feasibility, and their reliability. Several pa-
rameters may be required to calculate the indicators
used for the assessment (Table 4). Each indicator is
calculated by an equation of the following type: Y=
f(X)(whereYis the indicator and Xis the parameter(s)).
Indicator ¼XfparametersðÞ
The parameters of this equation are simply the agri-
cultural techniques (except for the indicators of the topic
Tabl e 2 Extract from the objectives agricultural techniques matrix of the conceptual model
Agricultural techniques Reduce the
pollution of
waters and soils
Increase the
fertility of
the soil
Combat weeds
and pests
human health
Improve the
quality of foods
Reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides X X X X X
Use of organic, natural pesticides X X X X X X
Use of the technique of biological control X X
Reduction in doses of nitrogen
(mineral and organic)
Inclusion of nitrogen-fixing cover crops
and legumes
Association of crops X X X
Extended crop rotation X X X
Permanent soil cover X X X X
Replacement of chemical fertilizers by
organic alternatives
Establishment of agroecological infrastructures X X X X
Introduction of livestock into production systems X X
Fig. 7 Representation of the
conceptual model
150 Environ Sci Pollut Res (2016) 23:139156
BEconomy^). The parameters can be simple or composite
(coefficients, ratios, etc.).
Classification of parameters (agricultural techniques)
as a function of agricultural productions
Parameters (agricultural techniques) must be classified
as a function of agricultural productions. Each agricul-
tural production is characterized by a set of agricultural
techniques; sometimes a given agricultural technique is
employed for one production but not for another. An
example of the way certain agricultural techniques can
be distributed, depending on the type of agricultural
production, already mentioned in Table 4,ispresented
in Table 5. Three types of production system (mixed
farming, mixed farming-livestock and livestock), eight
types of crop (cereals, oilseed, orchards, vineyard, in-
dustrial crops, vegetables, ornamental plants, and grass-
lands (fodder)), and one type of animal production
(livestock) were chosen for this study. For market gar-
dening and ornamental plants, the agricultural tech-
niques are classified according to the mode of produc-
tion: greenhouse or open-field crops.
Classification of parameters (agricultural techniques)
as a function of contexts
The agricultural techniques implemented depend on the
characteristics of the farms environment (sloping
ground, irrigable plot, soil type, lack of water, etc.).
Indeed, the contribution of agricultural techniques, for
a given agricultural production, to the performance of
the indicator, can differ according to the contexts. In
other words, in different contexts, the parameters of a
given agricultural production do not have the same
weight, the same degrees of importance. Let us take
the example of the BErosion-Runoff^indicator and the
parameter BAnti-erosion infrastructures^:inanareanot
vulnerable to erosion, there is no need to install anti-
erosion infrastructures. For this reason, it is necessary to
take into account the weight of the parameters accord-
ing to the contexts when creating equations for the in-
dicators. The parameters are classified according to four
levels of importance: none, low, moderate, and high. To
calculate the indicators, a coefficient is assigned to each
degree: 0 for none, 1 for low, 2 for moderate, and 3 for
high. These degrees of importance are determined by
expert assessment. The coefficients attributed to the dif-
ferent weightings for parameters must be taken into ac-
count in the different equations for indicators per agri-
cultural production and per context.
Creating the equations
Equations for the indicators (except for economic indi-
cators) must be created as a function of the agricultural
productions and contexts. However, since the coeffi-
cients corresponding to the degrees of importance are
not yet defined, the equations are created taking into
account only the agricultural production. Examples of
equations for the BPollution^indicator are given in
Table 6. In the equations, the inverse value of the pa-
rameter (1/parameter) is used to express a negative cor-
relation between the indicator in question and the pa-
rameter. For example, the correlation between the
Tabl e 3 Topics and indicators
Topics Indicators
Environment Pollution
Soil fertility
Efficiency of nitrogen fertilization
Preservation of water
Preservation of energy
An indicator of risk of toxicity for the
environment (IRTE)
Crop protection Pest control
Weed control
Health Animal welfare
Human health
An indicator of risk of toxicity for the
health of the applicator (IRSA)
Society Social involvement
Nutritional quality of foods
Intensity and difficulty of the work
Economy Effectiveness of income
Economic efficiency
Productive efficiency
Self-financing capacity
Financial dependency
Technico-economic efficiency
Efficiency of the production process
The development of these two indicators made reference to Norwegian
and Quebec work. Ayadi, H., Le Bars, M., Le Grusse, P., Mandart, E.,
Fabre, J., Bouaziz, A., Bord, JP (2014) SimPhy : Un jeu de simulation
pour réduire l'impact du phytosanitaries sur la santé et l'environnement -.
Le cas de Merja Zerga au Maroc sciences de l'environnement et de la
recherche de la pollution, Volume 21, Issue 7, pp 49504963
Mghirbi O, Ellefi K, Le Grusse P, Mandart E, Fabre J, Ayadi H, Bord J-P
(2014) Assessing plant protection practices using pressure indicator and
toxicity risk indicators: analysis of the relationship between these indica-
tors for improved risk management, application in viticulture. Environ-
mental science and pollution research, Online ISSN 1614-7499, DOI 10.
Environ Sci Pollut Res (2016) 23:139156 151
indicator BPollution^and the parameter BAgroecological
infrastructures^is negative: The greater the surface area
of agroecological infrastructures, the lower the pollution
of water and soil. For this reason, the ratio B1/
Tabl e 4 Example of indicators
and their parameters for two
Topics Indicators Codes Parameters
Environment Pollution P1 Treatment, storage or recycling of waste water, and waste and
effluent from livestock
P2 Treatment of crops by copper and/or sulfur
P3 Treatment of crops by chemical pesticides
P4 Treatment of crops by organic, natural pesticides
P5 Surplus nitrogen (kg/ha/year)
P6 Integration of legumes and intermediate nitrogen-fixing crops
P7 Mineral phosphate fertilizer (P)
P8 Ground cover (between rows and/or after harvest)
P9 Grassing (ground cover between rows) under perennial
woody crops
P10 Replacement of chemical fertilizers by organic alternatives
P11 Continued alternating between mowing and grazing
P12 Agroecological infrastructures
Crop protection Pest control CR1 Treatment of crops by organic, natural pesticides
CR2 Biological control
CR3 Use of physical barriers
CR4 Use of plant varieties resistant to different crop pests
CR5 Use of the false seed bed technique
CR6 Crop rotation
CR7 Choice and distribution of crops
CR8 Ground cover (between rows and/or after harvest)
CR9 Grassing (ground cover between rows) under perennial
woody crops
CR10 Replacement of chemical fertilizers by organic alternatives
CR11 Agroecological infrastructures
CR12 Agroforestry
Tabl e 5 Example of distribution of certain agricultural techniques based on agricultural productions
Mixed farming-livestock
Greenhouse crops Livestock
Mixed farming
Cereals Oilseed Orchards Vineyard Industrial
Vegetables Ornamental
P1 x x x x x xx xx x x
P2 x x x x x xx xx x
P3 x x x x x xx xx x
P9 x x
P11 x
CR2 x x x x x xx xx x
CR6 x x x xx xx x
CR11 x x x x x x x x
XX technique also practiced in greenhouses
152 Environ Sci Pollut Res (2016) 23:139156
Agroecological infrastructures^is used in the equation
for the BPollution^indicator.
For the economic indicators, the parameters are not
agricultural techniques but merely the resulting econom-
ic data. The different techniques implemented influence
the economic situation of the farm. The results of this
impact are determined using economic indicators found
in the literature, and new specific indicators for agro-
ecology developed in the context of this work. Thus,
the same data can be used to calculate one or more
indicators. For example, the equation for the economic
indicator BEconomic efficiency^used in the RAD meth-
od, taken from the literature, is as follows:
Economicefficiency ¼Addedvalue=Grossproduct
where Gross product (of the activity) = Production sold
(sales) + AEM subsidies (excluding SFP) and Added
value = Product of the activity (Operating costs+
Fixed costs excluding depreciation and financial
Calculating indicators
Like all rating indicator, a score is assigned to the dif-
ferent parameters to obtain a performance index for
each indicator. To resolve the equations, it is first nec-
essary to identify their parameters. These parameters
may be qualitative or quantitative data.
For the calculation of indicators, scoring systems have been
&A scoring system for parameters: Assign ascore,accord-
ing to a rating system, to each parameter as a function of
its importance in achieving the objective.
&A scoring system for indicators: Set a performance
threshold for each indicator.
The performance index for an indicator (for the topics
Environment, Crop Protection, Health and Society) is the re-
sult of the resolution of its equation once the scores and coef-
ficients have been assigned to its parameters, i.e., by replacing
each parameter by its score, multiplied by its coefficient. For
the economicindicators, the effectiveness index isthe result of
direct calculation of the equation. The performance of an ag-
roecological transition relative to the different indicators is
determined by comparing the performance indices obtained
with the predefined agroecological performance thresholds
by allocating the maximum ratings (best) to different param-
eters. We can define a good performance criterion when the
exploitation reached for example 70 % of the threshold. This
value is being validated according to the data obtained and
sensitization tests.
The main challenge for the management of agricultural pro-
duction systems is the reduction of agricultural inputs, espe-
cially water and chemicals, while maintaining long-term pro-
ductivity. The process of transition to agroecology must be
assessed rigorously and be appropriate for the specific condi-
tions of the production systems and the territory. Taking ac-
count of the specificities of the organic and agroecological
farming systems is very important for the development of an
effective sustainability assessment tool for such systems. The
performance of transition to agroecology can be measured
using a set of indicators concerning the environment, crop
protection, health, society, and the economy. The economic
indicators in the methods for assessing farm performance
Tabl e 6 Equations for the
(environment topic) as a function
of agricultural productions
Productions Equations
Cereals 1
Orchards 1
Industrial crops 1
Field vegetables
Field ornamental plants
Greenhouse vegetables 1
Greenhouse ornamental plants
Grasslands (fodder) 1
Livestock 1
Environ Sci Pollut Res (2016) 23:139156 153
remain focused only on the financial criteria at farm level.
Economic performance can also be measured by assessing
the economic impact on society, taking account of non-
market costs and advantages. This approach should give a
better estimate of the real economic impact of the transition
to agroecology. The tool presented in this paper is currently
being tested in the framework of a CASDAR project (on the
theme Bcollective mobilisation for agroecology^), using data
from farms, most of which have been pursuing an
agroenvironmental transition process and progressively re-
ducing plant protection treatments since 2008.
Acknowledgments We are grateful to the Mediterranean Agronomic
Institute of Montpellier (CIHEAM-MAIM) and the CASDAR BPost
MAET Gimone^project, which funded the research. We extend our thanks
to everyone we met during this study: the farmers of the Qualisol cooper-
ative, the Ardèche farmers who belong to the professional network of 41
organic farms of demonstration in Rhône-Alpes, and the agricultural
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This paper discusses how to incorporate the changes within an agroecosystem into sustainability assessment. We measured the sustainability of 86 organic coffee producers located in 4 municipalities of Sierra Madre of Chiapas, Mexico. Based on the MESMIS framework, a set of indicators was selected. A sustainability index was constructed using the multi-criteria decision method known as the analytical hierarchy process in a broad participatory process with producers and cooperatives. Likewise, classification of producers was carried out through land use transitions in their lands between 1999 and 2019 using satellite imagery. A variance analysis between classes was performed to identify statistical differences. The results show that producers who expand their coffee plantations into forested areas have more sustainability levels than those producers who convert agricultural activities into coffee plantations and producers with both transitions in coffee expansion-conversion. The indicators of labor efficiency, benefit-to-cost ratio, price, remnant of primary vegetation, recovery of production from natural phenomena, family succession, and producer land area showed statistical differences between classes. These results are relevant because sustainability assessment is an action-oriented method. Therefore, the contribution of this study can help guide recommendations for specific groups of producers.
The use of agrochemicals in agriculture as a tool for generating increase in agricultural production per unit of inputs has both its merits and demerits. Agrochemicals have been a useful tool in the intensive development of agriculture over the centuries. While agricultural intensification is necessary for meeting the food needs of the world’s ever-increasing population, it has undoubtedly resulted in the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Changes in agricultural management practices and intensities of production, and changes in the vegetative diversity in an agroecosystem are issues that are closely linked to one another. The development and use of agrochemicals have greatly helped in keeping up with world food demands, but the effects they have on plant and animal life, the integrity of our soil and water, as well as the health of the environment as a whole should not be overlooked. Mankind cannot do without farming the land for his food and livelihood, but in tackling the problems of hunger and nutrition, attention must not only be paid to boosting food production, improving livelihoods and creating resilient food systems, but also to protecting and sustaining our natural ecosystem and resources. Activities such as plowing, harrowing, as well as the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides have been shown to have significant effects on the environment. Structure of modern agriculture gradually and continually eliminates biological diversity which is the foundation of any stable and productive ecosystem. This situation pushes forward the question of if technological progress (with a major focus on the use of chemicals for plant protection and increased yield) without due respect to biodiversity principles can bring about the environmentally friendly agriculture that is necessary for sustainable development. It is therefore necessary to examine the threats that exists as a result of the use (and misuse) of agrochemicals, and what exactly these existing threats portend for biodiversity. In this light, this chapter will examine in great depth, the advantages and threats of agrochemicals on biodiversity conservation.KeywordsAgrochemicalsBiodiversityAgricultureEcosystemEnvironmentConservation
This study examines the concept of sustainable agriculture. Sustainability is the avoidance of depletion of natural resources in order to maintain the balance of the ecosystem. The depletion of the environment by agricultural production and the neglect of most growth-yielding agricultural industries necessitated the study. Sustainable agriculture has been with us since the inception of agriculture; but recently, due to population growth and the United Nations –Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty; many forest lands have gone into cultivation, and family farms consolidated to emerge into commercial farms. The use of heavy machinery, chemicals, and intensive cultivation have drastically impacted the ecosystem. The information used for the study was from secondary sources. The study findings are organized into the following sections: an examination of the theory and principles of sustainability concerning agricultural productivity, the need to be agricultural sustainable, and a way forward. Evidence from literature emphasizes how agriculture provides food and raw materials for further production and yet many people are hungry due to food waste. Intensive agricultural production contributes significantly to deforestation and ecosystem imbalance. The study found out that the five key principles of agricultural sustainability would be a driver for sustainable agriculture. Agricultural sustainability is highly uncertain. The entire globe should formulate a policy for efficient use of natural resources for now and in the future.
Agricultural policies are now orientated towards sustainable food production which integrate climate and biodiversity targets. Increasing the uptake of ecological approaches is intrinsic to the success of these policies. but this is contingent on farmer acceptability of these practices. We employ a cross-European farmer survey to explore the perspectives of producers and to derive a typology based on their ecological self-identities.Using a one stage latent class model we find four types and examine common factors which may correlate to farmer membership of a particular group. We find two types which are positive towards uptake of ecological approaches but are mainly differentiated by their responses to social pressure and the acceptance of ecological practices within their supply chains. A further group reveals a multifunctional identity, which balances ecological with food productivity goals, whereas a final group show indifference towards ecological approaches and may align with previous work identifying productivist farming identities. As Governments are seeking to promote transition within the industry we argue for clear policy intent inmessaging, as well as approaches which support supply chain dialogue to target particular groups of farmers for real behavioural change.
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La méthode idea est une méthode globale d'évaluation de la durabilité des systèmes agricoles. Largement testée et éprouvée sur le terrain, elle constitue un outil de formation et d'autoévaluation qui montre les faiblesses techniques et les voies de progression possibles. Elle se compose de trois séries d'indicateurs simples et facilement compréhensibles qui caractérisent les systèmes agricoles dans leurs dimensions agroécologiques mais aussi sociales et économiques. Cette édition actualisée et enrichie des nombreux retours de terrain, permet la compréhension et l'analyse de la durabilité des systèmes agricoles dans la diversité de leurs milieux et de leurs combinaisons techniques.
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Agroecology involves various approaches to solve actual challenges of agricultural production. Though agroecology initially dealt primarily with crop production and protection aspects, in recent decades new dimensions such as environmental, social, economic, ethical and development issues are becoming relevant. Today, the term 'agroecology' means either a scientific discipline, agricultural practice, or political or social movement. Here we study the different meanings of agroecology. For that we analyse the historical development of agroecology. We present examples from USA, Brazil, Germany, and France. We study and discuss the evolution of different meanings agroecology. The use of the term agroecology can be traced back to the 1930s. Until the 1960s agroecology referred only as a purely scientific discipline. Then, different branches of agroecology developed. Following environmental movements in the 1960s that went against industrial agriculture, agroecology evolved and fostered agroecological movements in the 1990s. Agroecology as an agricultural practice emerged in the 1980s, and was often intertwined with movements. Further, the scales and dimensions of agroecological investigations changed over the past 80 years from the plot and field scales to the farm and agroecosystem scales. Actually three approaches persist: ( 1) investigations at plot and field scales, ( 2) investigations at the agroecosystem and farm scales, and ( 3) investigations covering the whole food system. These different approaches of agroecological science can be explained by the history of nations. In France, agroecology was mainly understood as a farming practice and to certain extent as a movement, whereas the corresponding scientific discipline was agronomy. In Germany, agroecology has a long tradition as a scientific discipline. In the USA and in Brazil all three interpretations of agroecology occur, albeit with a predominance of agroecology as a science in the USA and a stronger emphasis on movement and agricultural practice in Brazil. These varied meanings of the term agroecology cause confusion among scientists and the public, and we recommend that those who publish using this term be explicit in their interpretation.
This new edition builds on the explosion of research on sustainable agriculture since the late 1980s. By separating myth from reality, Miguel Altieri extracts the key principles of sustainable agriculture and expounds on management systems that “really work.” Providing case studies of sustainable rural development in developing countries, he goes beyond a mere description of practices to include data that reveal the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of alternative projects. Each chapter of Agroecology has been enriched and updated with the latest research results from around the world. New emphasis has been placed on such issues as the ecological economics of agriculture, policy changes needed for promoting sustainable agriculture, rural development in the Third World, the role of biodiversity in agriculture, and new research methodologies.
121 exploitations des bassins laitiers de la Mitidja et d'Annaba ont fait l'objet d'une enquête pour recueillir les informations relatives à leur structure, à l'utilisation des terres, à la main d'oeuvre et à la gestion économique de l'exploitation. Une typologie des exploitations a permis d'identifier huit types d'élevages qui diffèrent par les effectifs humains et bovins, et les pratiques agricoles.La durabilité de ces exploitations a été évaluée à l'aide de 37 indicateurs décrivant les échelles agro-environnementale, socio-territoriale et économique. Cinq groupes d'exploitations ont été identifiés selon leurs scores de durabilité. Les exploitations de la région d'Annaba ont des scores de durabilité totale et agro-environnementale supérieurs à celles de la Mitidja.Cette étude montre l'influence du système de production sur les paramètres concourant à l'estimation de la durabilité des exploitations, en particulier la gestion des ressources fourragères et la diversification des cultures. Les objectifs économiques prennent le pas sur la composante sociale.L'étude de la dynamique des exploitations a permis d'analyser les évolutions passées à travers une comparaison avec l'état actuel de ces élevages ainsi que les évolutions prévisibles à partir de recommandations proposées à l'éleveur. Cette démarche a permis de soulever les atouts et les faiblesses de ces systèmes d'élevage, d'élaborer une méthode utilisable par les décideurs ainsi que par les acteurs du secteur agricole à différents niveaux de décision, leur permettant d'élaborer des stratégies dans une perspective de développement durable.