Staff Publications

Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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    Which smallholder farmers benefit most from biomass production for food and biofuel? The case of Gondola district, central Mozambique
    Leonardo, W.J. ; Florin, M.J. ; Ven, G.W.J. van de; Udo, H.M.J. ; Giller, K.E. - \ 2015
    Biomass and Bioenergy 83 (2015). - ISSN 0961-9534 - p. 257 - 268.
    We analysed the influence of the mode of participation in biomass production for biofuels on food security of different farm types. We studied two modes of participation in biomass production: an outgrower scheme for sunflower and a jatropha plantation offering full time employment and assessed the four dimensions of food security: availability, access, stability and utilization in smallholder farms in Central Mozambique. We interviewed 80 households who were participating in the sunflower outgrower scheme, had a household member working on the jatropha plantation or were not participating with biofuel production. For each household we quantified four indicators: maize sales minus purchases, gross revenue, revenue diversity, and household dietary diversity scores. Involvement of smallholder farmers with biomass production for fuel had a positive or no impact on the four dimensions of food security at the farm level. Positive food security impacts from working on the biofuel plantation were improvements in availability for the larger farms and improvements in access for the smaller farms. Utilization of food was generally not impacted. Impacts on food security from the sunflower outgrower scheme were minor. There is scope to improve the outgrower scheme with services and inputs that increase sunflower yields and give positive spill-overs to other crops.
    The policy and practice of sustainable biofuels: Between global frameworks and local heterogeneity. The case of food security in Mozambique
    Schut, M. ; Florin, M.J. - \ 2015
    Biomass and Bioenergy 72 (2015). - ISSN 0961-9534 - p. 123 - 135.
    bio-energy - governance - ethanol - certification - countries - markets - trade
    This study explores the relationship between different biofuel production systems, the context in which they operate, and the extent to which various types of frameworks and schemes are able to monitor and promote their sustainability. The paper refers to the European Union Renewable Energy Directive and two international certification schemes (Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels and NTA 8080/81) that can provide a ‘licence to sell’ biofuels on the EU market, and to the Mozambican policy framework for sustainable biofuels that provides a ‘licence to produce’ biomass for biofuels in Mozambique. Food security is used as a case study, and the food security impacts of two agro-industrial and two smallholder biofuel projects in Mozambique are described and analysed. The sustainability frameworks and schemes used in this study are able to address some, but not all, of the heterogeneity between and within different biofuel production systems. The emphasis is on monitoring agro-industrial projects while smallholder projects tend to slip through the net even when their negative impacts are evident. We conclude that globally applicable sustainability principles are useful, however, they should be operationalised at local or production system levels. This approach will support balancing between global frameworks and local heterogeneity.
    Socioeconomic and environmental assessment of biodiesel crops on family farming systems in Brazil
    Belo Leitea, J.G. Dal; Barbosa Justino, F. ; Nunes Vieira da Silva, J.V. ; Florin, M.J. ; Ittersum, M.K. van - \ 2015
    Agricultural Systems 133 (2015). - ISSN 0308-521X - p. 22 - 34.
    nitrogen-use efficiency - land-use systems - integrated assessment - ecological intensification - cereal production - ammonium-sulfate - cropping systems - pest-management - yield - agriculture
    In Brazil, local agricultural research agendas are increasingly challenged by the search for sustainable biodiesel crop options for family farmers, especially under semi-arid conditions. The aim of this paper is to explore the suitability of different biodiesel crops (i.e. soybean, castor bean and sunflower) through a set of environmental and socioeconomic indicators in a semi-arid (Montes Claros) and a more humid (Chapada Gaúcha) municipality in the state of Minas Gerais, southeast Brazil. A technical coefficient generator (TechnoGIN) was used to assess current (maize, beans, soybean and grass seed) and alternative (castor bean and sunflower) crops grown with current and alternative production techniques. The quantification of the inputs and outputs was based on farm surveys, expert knowledge, literature and field experiments. Although castor bean and sunflower are economically competitive with maize in Montes Claros, feed and labour requirements may hinder farmers' adoption. In Chapada Gaúcha, the double cropping system soybean/sunflower presented small economic gains when compared to soybean; it also increased nitrogen losses and biocide residues. We conclude that the scope for alternative and sustainable biodiesel crops on family farms is limited. Their economic benefits are small or absent, while their introduction can lead to higher environmental impacts and there may be trade-offs with food and feed availability at the farm level.
    What drives sustainable biofuels? A review of indicator assessments of biofuel production systems involving smallholder farmer
    Florin, M.J. ; Ven, G.W.J. van de; Ittersum, M.K. van - \ 2014
    Environmental Science & Policy 37 (2014). - ISSN 1462-9011 - p. 142 - 157.
    soil fertility decline - land-use change - food security - jatropha plantations - developing-countries - rural livelihoods - farming systems - tamil-nadu - bio-energy - water-use
    The contribution of biofuel production to sustainable development in rural areas requires policy and practice that understands the opportunities and risks faced by smallholder farmers. Potential opportunities for smallholders include access to markets, access to employment, local infrastructure developments and spill over effects such as new agronomic knowledge. Potential threats include loss of land entitlements, social exclusion, environmental degradation, dependency upon the biofuel industry and diminished food security. Although a multitude of issues is acknowledged, many studies are focused on specific issues and knowledge remains fragmented. Further, much of the indicator-based literature does not acknowledge the importance of case-specificity nor the link between the processes and circumstances that drive indicator results. This article reviews indicator assessments of biofuel production involving smallholders and highlights the importance of holistically considering a range of social, economic and environmental criteria. Further this review stresses the need to link drivers with indicators. Drivers include decisions and circumstances of a biophysical, socio-economic and governance nature with relevance at field, farm and higher levels. The link between drivers and indicators is crucial to justify indicators and to identify the scope for policy to influence progress against indicators. A conceptual model is provided that summarises important processes determining sustainability of biofuel production involving smallholders. This model can also be used as a starting point for more detailed analysis capturing and quantifying relationships between specific drivers and indicators on a case-by-case basis. This type of analysis is particularly valuable in regions where biofuel policy and developments are unfolding and multiple stakeholders (e.g. smallholders, companies, NGOs and governments) are involved. We highlight that regulation and certification of biofuel production often needs to be complemented with improvements in governance structures and, that policy targeting smallholder involvement with biofuel production should account for a diversity of smallholder characteristics
    Family farmers and biodiesel production: Systems thinking and multi-level decisions in Northern Minas Gerais, Brazil.
    Florin, M.J. ; Ven, G.W.J. van de; Ittersum, M.K. van - \ 2013
    Agricultural Systems 121 (2013). - ISSN 0308-521X - p. 81 - 95.
    resource management - bayesian networks - policy - sustainability - arrangements - food
    This study focuses on family farmer engagement in the Brazilian national programme for Production and use of Biodiesel (PNPB). The Brazilian government has been promoting the role of family farmers as producers of biomass for biodiesel since 2004; however, fewer than expected family farmers have decided to produce biomass for biodiesel. The North of Minas Gerais is one region where a biodiesel plant has been strategically located to source castor beans grown by family farmers. The target family farm type in this region specializes in beef and/or dairy production with low input pasture (approximately 30 ha per farm), maize intercropped with beans (approximately 1 ha per farm) and sugarcane (approximately 1 ha per farm). We selected this region for a case study to explore management decisions of farmers, industry and policy makers that influence family farmer engagement with biodiesel production through cultivation of castor beans. To evaluate outcomes for family farmers engaging with the PNPB, we focused on how cultivation of castor beans impacts family farmers in terms of income levels, income stability and levels of milk production. We used an application of systems thinking known as Bayesian network modelling (BNM). BNM was chosen for its suitability to integrate different types of knowledge and to include quantitative and qualitative variables. The study was built on a body of scientific literature explaining why family farmers have not been cultivating castor beans for biodiesel production and a body of experiential knowledge of local actors (farmers, extension officers, policy makers, biodiesel manufacturers and researchers in North of Minas Gerais). The complete BNM consisted of a ‘cause and effect’ diagram where the strengths of the causal relationships were quantified with elicited opinions from surveyed local actors. We used the complete BNM to explore scenarios that could improve outcomes for family farmers and consequently increase their level of engagement. For example, we addressed subsidy structures of the PNPB, crop management, farm-level trade-offs and value-chain innovations. We demonstrate that decisions to support family farmer engagement with biodiesel are not singular. Engagement by family farmers requires simultaneously: improvements in technical crop management, reductions in farm-level cash constraints and innovations in the production chain such that engagement of family farmers goes beyond cultivation of one more low-value crop. Finally we discuss some methodological issues from this application of BNM to farming systems research.
    Biomass for biofuel: opportunity or threat to food security?
    Slingerland, M.A. ; Ven, G.W.J. van de; Florin, M.J. - \ 2013
    Selecting the sharpest tools to explore the food-feed-fuel debate: Sustainability assessment of family farmers producing food, feed and fuel in Brazil
    Florin, M.J. ; Ittersum, M.K. van; Ven, G.W.J. van de - \ 2012
    Ecological Indicators 20 (2012). - ISSN 1470-160X - p. 108 - 120.
    soil fertility decline - land-use - brachiaria pastures - impact assessment - cropping systems - farming systems - scale - agriculture - indicators - framework
    Continuing interest in sustainable biofuel production is linked with sustainable farming and begs for insights from farming systems research on sustainability assessment and the role of family farms. The aims of this work were two-fold. First, to present a tools and methods selection framework supporting indicator-based sustainability assessment. Second, to apply the framework to the case of castor beans (Ricinus communis L.), family farmers and the biodiesel industry in the southeast of Brazil. The framework synthesizes existing work on sustainability assessment within the agricultural domain. Transparent selection of tools and methods is supported by sequentially accounting for the context of sustainability, dealing with space, classifying the ‘nature of research’ and the degree of integration of different facets of sustainability. The framework is demonstrated with an exploratory assessment of the potential for castor bean cultivation within the current farm type of extensive pasture and fodder crops for dairy cattle. The study accounted for the range of productivity levels within the current farm type and for different management decisions when including castor beans. Assessment was made against economic development, livelihood stability and soil fertility criteria. Selected tools and methods included farm surveys, alternative farming system design and input–output calculations. The results demonstrate the greatest opportunity for castor bean cultivation by currently low productive farms. There is a trade-off of income derived from milk production that is supported by fodder production, and income from castor beans. Decisions regarding areal extent of castor beans and supplementing animal feed, are shown to be farm-specific, and depend upon the interactions between current farm productivity and prioritisation of sustainability criteria. However, generally it is shown that castor bean cultivation should be linked to animal production so that current risk management and income levels can be supported and improved. Further, to maintain soil fertility, castor bean cultivation with nitrogen inputs is necessary. The cyclic nature of the framework supports the next contextualisation of the sustainability question. For our application, constructive future work in a next cycle could include extending to regional level and accounting for temporal variability. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Scope of sustainability - do castor beans and the biodiesel industry offer family farmers a sustainable development opportunity in Brazil?
    Florin, M.J. ; Ven, G.W.J. van de; Ittersum, M.K. van - \ 2011
    In: Proceedings of the 5th WCCA - World Congress on Conservation Agriculture incorporating 3rd Farming Systems Conference Design Conference, 26-29 Sept. 2011, Brisbane, Australia. - - p. 314 - 315.
    Sustainable bio-energy is interwoven with sustainable rural development for family farmers. In this context, the Brazilian government is pursuing a “social inclusion” goal by means of family farmers providing a fraction of biodiesel feedstock. In 2009, the state-run petroleum company established a biodiesel plant in the north of Minas Gerais State. Family farmers in this region are faced with the prospect of entering agreements with the industry to provide castor beans (castor). Fewer family farmers than anticipated are engaging and this raises doubts regarding the sustainability of this option for family farmers (da Silva César and Batalha 2010). Exploration into the sustainability of such farmer-industry agreements from the farm-level perspective is timely. We conduct an exploratory assessment using sustainability indicators. We aim to: (i) capture and explore the scope of sustainability if family farmers choose to cultivate castor and (ii) explain sustainability as a function of current yield levels, alternative yield levels and alternative management decisions at the farm level.
    Inverse meta-modelling to estimate soil available water capacity at high spatial resolution across a farm
    Florin, M.J. ; McBratney, A.B. ; Whelan, B.M. ; Minasny, B. - \ 2011
    Precision Agriculture 12 (2011)3. - ISSN 1385-2256 - p. 421 - 438.
    crop models - neural-network - yield - wheat - variability - prediction - management - systems - growth - apsim
    Geo-referenced information on crop production that is both spatially- and temporally-dense would be useful for management in precision agriculture (PA). Crop yield monitors provide spatially but not temporally dense information. Crop growth simulation modelling can provide temporal density, but traditionally fail on the spatial issue. The research described was motivated by the challenge of satisfying both the spatial and temporal data needs of PA. The methods presented depart from current crop modelling within PA by introducing meta-modelling in combination with inverse modelling to estimate site-specific soil properties. The soil properties are used to predict spatially- and temporally-dense crop yields. An inverse meta-model was derived from the agricultural production simulator (APSIM) using neural networks to estimate soil available water capacity (AWC) from available yield data. Maps of AWC with a resolution of 10 m were produced across a dryland grain farm in Australia. For certain years and fields, the estimates were useful for yield prediction with APSIM and multiple regression, whereas for others the results were disappointing. The estimates contain ‘implicit information’ about climate interactions with soil, crop and landscape that needs to be identified. Improvement of the meta-model with more AWC scenarios, more years of yield data, inclusion of additional variables and accounting for uncertainty are discussed. We concluded that it is worthwhile to pursue this approach as an efficient way of extracting soil physical information that exists within crop yield maps to create spatially- and temporally-dense datasets
    Inverse meta-modelling of yield-monitor data for estimating soil-available water-holding capacities at a farm resolution of 10 m
    Florin, M.J. ; McBratney, A.B. ; Whelan, B.M. - \ 2010
    In: Proximal Soil Sensing / Viscara Rossel, R.A., McBratney, A.B., Minasny, B., Springer Science+Business Media B.V. (Progress in Soil Science Vol. 1) - ISBN 9789048188581 - p. 413 - 421.
    Indicating and assessing sustainability of biomass (for biofuel) production on family farms
    Florin, M.J. ; Ven, G.W.J. van de; Ittersum, M.K. van - \ 2009
    - p. 1 - 14.
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