Swiss Federal Research Station for Agroecology and Agriculture, Zurich-Reckenholz

Reflection on research for a sustainable agriculture

The concept of a sustainable development of agriculture tends to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It consists of a model for the balanced management of a system with five capital assets: financial capital, human capital, physical man-made capital, social capital and natural capital. A major challenge for a more sustainable agriculture in Europe is to increase productivity at an equal or lower consumption rate of the natural capital. This may be achieved by increasing efficiency, by substitution of non-renewable external inputs and by optimising synergisms by re-design of cropping and live stock systems. Thereby, optimisation of key processes of the agroecosystem is of crucial importance. Research may support a sustainable development of agriculture by contributions to the discussion of common goals, by providing knowledge about the ecosystems such as carrying capacity and cause effect relations as well as by the development of decision support systems for farmers for a more sustainable farm management.

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