Agroscope, Institute for Plant Production Sciences IPS, 1260 Nyon, Switzerland

How do farm size and farm structure influence the ecological performance of farms?

The article describes the results of an empirical pilot study in a Swiss mountain region dealing with the question, whether the actual fast trend towards bigger farms with less labour investment supports or hinders the task of a more ecological farming. Our data show, that the current hypothesis has to be adapted: At least in mountain regions smaller farms with a higher labour investment are more suitable to develop the ecological potential of the landscape. Therefore the actual change of farm structures will probably, without specific, in this study proposed measures, lead to a loss of ecological quality. No fundamental difference concerning the ecological performance was found between organic and conventional farming as well as between farms with high and low stocking rates. The reasons for these surprising findings are agronomically and ecologically discussed and conclusions for politics and administration are drawn.

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