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.
Policies to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions are more effective and more efficient if they are set at the regional level and not at the level of individual farms. This can help achieve climate targets.
Global food availability is expected to remain stable in the medium term. Food security challenges in Switzerland include the decline in agricultural land area per capita, higher incidence of extreme weather events and increased pressure from pests.
Different cultural backgrounds lead to different uptake of biodiversity agri-environmental schemes at the inner-Swiss French-German language border. Economic policy incentives could mitigate culture-driven behavioral differences.