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Crop Science Abstract -

Sustainable Crop Production: Definition and Methodological Approach for Assessing and Implementing Sustainability


This article in CS

  1. Vol. 39 No. 1, p. 184-193
    Received: Nov 6, 1997

    * Corresponding author(s): lewandow@uni-hohenheim.de
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  1. I. Lewandowski ,
  2. M. Härdtlein and
  3. M. Kaltschmitt
  1. Institute for Crop Production and Grassland Research (340), Univ. of Hohenheim, Fruwirthstr. 23, D - 70599 Stuttgart, Germany



A method for assessing and implementing sustainable crop production is needed to give practical relevance to the frequently used term “sustainable agriculture”. The objective of this paper is to present such a theoretical procedure. Therefore the terms “sustainability” and “sustainable crop production” are discussed and defined. On the basis of the definitions, an eight-step procedure for assessing and implementing sustainable crop production is outlined. The steps are (1) identify emissions and other releases linked to different crop production practices, (2) trace each different release from its source (the crop management practice) to its sinks (i.e., agroecosystems and other ecosystems or components of ecosystems directly or indirectly affected by these releases), (3) select indicators that adequately describe the condition of the ecosystem affected directly or indirectly by crop production practices, (4) determine threshold values for the selected ecosystem indicators (i.e., values which should not be exceeded if irreversible changes in the affected ecosystems are to be avoided), (5) transpose the ecosystem threshold values to the farm level by retracing the impact pathways (from Step 2) backward to crop production itself, (6) derive farm-level indicators that point to separate or combined agronomic practices that could cause irreversible changes in affected ecosystems, (7) determine farm-level threshold values for management-induced releases on the basis of ecosystem level threshold values, and (8) identify production schemes that adhere to the framework set by the farm-level thresholds. From these production schemes the farmer can select those most in line with his available resources and objectives.

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