Monday, 18 August 2014

Sustainable Intensification: RISE report

The Rural Investment Support for Europe (RISE) Foundation launched ‘The Sustainable Intensification of European Agriculture’ in June 2014. Here are some of the key points from the Executive Summary

• Input intensification per se is not the goal, but may well be a consequence of achieving these goals. Although, an input which should be intensified everywhere is knowledge per hectare.
• The prime goals of sustainable intensification are a resource efficient agriculture with significantly higher environmental performance. Ecosystem degradation is itself reducing agricultural productivity.
• Sustainable intensification means improving productivity of crops and animals whilst reducing: the leakages of nutrients, crop protection chemicals and greenhouse gases; soil erosion and biodiversity, habitat and species loss; and expanding conservation outputs of agriculture.
• Because intensity and sustainability of agricultural systems vary enormously and from site to site, sustainable intensification development paths will differ widely between locations, farming systems and individual farms.
• Sustainable intensification will mean increasing agricultural outputs in some cases and conservation outputs in others, and in some situations both.
• It would be helpful if academic and commercial attempts to measure sustainability in agricultural systems were to build on the basis of the official indicator sets.
• More effort should be expended to examine the evidence on environmental thresholds relevant to EU agriculture, particularly those related to climate change.
• In the absence of sufficiently comprehensive or specific evidence on thresholds, then it would be more scientifically defensible to talk about environmental, economic and social performance rather than sustainability. This would better match the use of legislative standards as proxies for thresholds, as performance below such standards is unacceptable.
• The phrase sustainable intensification can be seen as the latest manifestation of many attempts to demonstrate to farmers that they have a twin role of producing food and environmental services.

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