Sustainability of Agricultural Management Options Under a Systems Perspective
Pacini, Gaio Cesare ; Groot, Jeroen C.J. - \ 2017
In: Encyclopedia of Sustainable Technologies Elsevier - ISBN 9780128047927 - p. 191 - 200.
Agricultural sustainability - Agroecosystems properties - Capacity - Coherence - Conceptual model - Connectedness - Diversity - Management options - Resilience - Stability - Systems perspective
Sustainable development of agricultural landscapes has become a primary issue as reflected in many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Comparing alternative potential technologies and assessing relevant results in terms of their implementation on agroecosystems in specific environmental and social contexts is a complex matter. In this article, a conceptual model to evaluate sustainability of agroecosystems under a systems perspective is presented, which is based on dimensions and properties of agroecosystems. Examples of applications of the conceptual model are given that address sustainability assessment of agricultural technologies and agroecosystems.
Combining multi-dimensional scaling and cluster analysis to describe the diversity of rural households
Pacini, G.C. ; Colucci, D. ; Baudron, F. ; Righi, E. ; Corbeels, M. ; Tittonell, P.A. ; Stefanini, F.M. - \ 2014
Experimental Agriculture 50 (2014)3. - ISSN 0014-4797 - p. 376 - 397.
farms - management - heterogeneity - assemblages - typologies - indicators - region - spain
Capturing agricultural heterogeneity through the analysis of farm typologies is key with regard to the design of sustainable policies and to the adoptability of new technologies. An optimal balance needs to be found between, on the one hand, the requirement to consider local stakeholder and expert knowledge for typology identification, and on the other hand, the need to identify typologies that transcend the local boundaries of single studies and can be used for comparisons. In this paper, we propose a method that supports expert-driven identification of farm typologies, while at the same time keeping the characteristics of objectivity and reproducibility of statistical tools. The method uses a range of multivariate analysis techniques and it is based on a protocol that favours the use of stakeholder and expert knowledge in the process of typology identification by means of visualization of farm groups and relevant statistics. Results of two studies in Zimbabwe and Kenya are shown. Findings obtained with the method proposed are contrasted with those obtained through a parametric method based on latent class analysis. The method is compared to alternative approaches with regard to stakeholder-orientation and statistical reliability.
Evaluating the characteristics of a non-standardised Model Requirements Analysis (MRA) for the development of policy impact assessment tools
Sieber, S. ; Amjath-Babu, T.S. ; McIntosh, B.S. ; Tscherning, K. ; Mulller, K. ; Helming, K. ; Pohle, D. ; Fricke, K. ; Verweij, P.J.F.M. ; Pacini, C. ; Jansson, T. ; Paloma, S.G.Y. - \ 2013
Environmental Modelling & Software 49 (2013). - ISSN 1364-8152 - p. 53 - 63.
support - systems - design - methodology - management - decision - science
Communicating complexity: Integrated assessment of trade-offs concerning soil fertility management within African farming systems to support innovation and development
Giller, K.E. ; Tittonell, P.A. ; Rufino, M.C. ; Wijk, M.T. van; Zingore, S. ; Mapfumo, P. ; Adjei-Nsiah, S. ; Herrero, M. ; Chikowo, R. ; Corbeels, M. ; Rowe, E.C. ; Baijukya, F.P. ; Mwijage, A. ; Smith, J. ; Yeboah, E. ; Burg, W.J. van der; Sanogo, O. ; Misiko, M. ; Ridder, N. de; Karanja, S. ; Kaizzi, C.K. ; K'ungu, J. ; Mwale, M. ; Nwaga, D. ; Pacini, C. ; Vanlauwe, B. - \ 2011
Agricultural Systems 104 (2011)2. - ISSN 0308-521X - p. 191 - 203.
nutrient use efficiencies - crop-livestock systems - western kenya - smallholder farms - land-use - southern mali - cycling efficiencies - exploring diversity - resource-allocation - dynamics
African farming systems are highly heterogeneous: between agroecological and socioeconomic environments, in the wide variability in farmers’ resource endowments and in farm management. This means that single solutions (or ‘silver bullets’) for improving farm productivity do not exist. Yet to date few approaches to understand constraints and explore options for change have tackled the bewildering complexity of African farming systems. In this paper we describe the Nutrient Use in Animal and Cropping systems – Efficiencies and Scales (NUANCES) framework. NUANCES offers a structured approach to unravel and understand the complexity of African farming to identify what we term ‘best-fit’ technologies – technologies targeted to specific types of farmers and to specific niches within their farms. The NUANCES framework is not ‘just another computer model’! We combine the tools of systems analysis and experimentation, detailed field observations and surveys, incorporate expert knowledge (local knowledge and results of research), generate databases, and apply simulation models to analyse performance of farms, and the impacts of introducing new technologies. We have analysed and described complexity of farming systems, their external drivers and some of the mechanisms that result in (in)efficient use of scarce resources. Studying sites across sub-Saharan Africa has provided insights in the trajectories of change in farming systems in response to population growth, economic conditions and climate variability (cycles of drier and wetter years) and climate change. In regions where human population is dense and land scarce, farm typologies have proven useful to target technologies between farmers of different production objectives and resource endowment (notably in terms of land, labour and capacity for investment). In such regions we could categorise types of fields on the basis of their responsiveness to soil improving technologies along soil fertility gradients, relying on local indicators to differentiate those that may be managed through ‘maintenance fertilization’ from fields that are highly-responsive to fertilizers and fields that require rehabilitation before yields can improved. Where human population pressure on the land is less intense, farm and field types are harder to discern, without clear patterns. Nutrient cycling through livestock is in principle not efficient for increasing food production due to increased nutrient losses, but is attractive for farmers due to the multiple functions of livestock. We identified trade-offs between income generation, soil conservation and community agreements through optimising concurrent objectives at farm and village levels. These examples show that future analyses must focus at farm and farming system level and not at the level of individual fields to achieve appropriate targeting of technologies – both between locations and between farms at any given location. The approach for integrated assessment described here can be used ex ante to explore the potential of best-fit technologies and the ways they can be best combined at farm level. The dynamic and integrated nature of the framework allows the impact of changes in external drivers such as climate change or development policy to be analysed. Fundamental questions for integrated analysis relate to the site-specific knowledge and the simplification of processes required to integrate and move from one level to the next. Keywords: Crop–livestock systems; Soil fertility; Smallholders; Farm types; Simulation modelling
An aggregation framework to link indicators associated with multifunctional land use to the stakeholder evaluation of policy options
Paracchini, M.L. ; Pacini, C. ; Jones, M.L.M. ; Pérez-Soba, M. - \ 2011
Ecological Indicators 11 (2011)1. - ISSN 1470-160X - p. 71 - 80.
sustainability assessment - environmental assessment - decision-making - regions
In the last decade efforts have been carried out by the scientific community aimed at building integrated frameworks to support the decision-making process when sustainability issues are addressed. This paper proposes a further advancement in integrated assessment procedures by setting up an operational multi-scale and transparent framework, which comprises the assessment of European regions in terms of sustainability, and the identification of the impact that policy options might have on the sustainability of these regions. The framework is designed for use in ex ante sustainability impact assessment of policy scenarios on multifunctionality of land use and integrates economic, environmental and social issues across a variety of sectors (agriculture, forestry, transport, tourism and energy). The proposed method provides a conceptual framework applicable at different scales (European, regional), and takes into account the great variability of European regions. The described methodology is based on linear additive models to weight and aggregate selected indicators to a set of land use functions identified to describe the goods and services provided by the different land uses that summarise the most relevant economic, environmental and social issues of a region. The framework is designed to allow the evaluation of impacts at an international scale (e.g. the European Union), or on selected regions. The aggregation framework can be used to evaluate the impact that policy options have on the sustainability of multifunctional land use systems with competing demands. A conceptual envelope, called the ¿trade-off evaluation space¿, delineates all possible developments in the functions of the land. The sustainability limits identify the subset of `acceptable¿ policy options within the trade-off evaluation space, so that the distance of each land use function from sustainability limits can be estimated and trade-offs between the different functions of the multifunctional land use system can be identified. The proposed methodology is adaptable to different contexts: if the assumption is taken that all land use functions are equally weighted the framework can be used to analyse policy cases and take decisions on policy options at the European or regional level. However, at the local-scale the framework can also be applied through a participatory approach and the distribution of weights can be rediscussed with local stakeholders. In both cases the proposed system can be used as a tool for discussion among all interested parties
Evaluation of indicators sets using a polyocular perspective on agroecosystems
Groot, J.C.J. ; Pacini, G.C. - \ 2010
In: Proceedings 1er Congreso en Co-Innovación de Sistemas Sostenibles de Sustento Rural, Minas, Uruguay, 27-30 April 2010. - - p. 229 - 232.
Exploring the variability among smallholder farms in the banana-based farming systems in Bukoba district, Northwest Tanzania
Mwijage, A. ; Ridder, N. de; Baijukya, F.P. ; Pacini, C. ; Giller, K.E. - \ 2009
African Journal of Agricultural Research 4 (2009)12. - ISSN 1991-637X - p. 1410 - 1426.
crop productivity - resource - dynamics
A study was conducted in the high and low rainfall zones in the banana-based farming system in Bukoba district, Tanzania, to explore the variability among household characteristics and farm productivity. Approaches used included a participatory rural appraisal, rapid system characterization, surveys and detailed farm monitoring in two villages, one from each zone in 2005 through 2006. Based on a wealth-ranking, four household resource groups with decreasing wealth were identified: Resource group 1 > Resource group 2 > Resource group 3 > Resource group 4, distinguished by domestic assets, livestock ownership and labour relations. Through principal component analysis using additional variables defined by research team, three Functional Resource Groups from among the four Resource groups at each rainfall zone were identified distinguished by: soil fertility management, food security and farm and off-farm income as important indicators of variability. Further detailed monitoring over 14 months (from March, 2006 through May, 2007) in at least three households from each functional resource group showed that N, P and K balances among land use types and farms were driven by levels of organic inputs used and were also related to wealth and dependence on off-farm activities. However, all households were net food buyers, implying food insecurity. In addition, off-farm activities and off-farm income were important livelihood survival strategies
|Farm typology identification by multi-variate analysis as a method to scale-up results of integrated impact assessment
Righi, E. ; Pacini, G.C. ; Dogliotti Moro, S. ; Aguerre, V. ; Rossing, W.A.H. - \ 2009
In: Proceedings of the Conference on Integrated Assessment of Agriculture and Sustainable Development; Setting the Agenda for Science and Policy (AgSAP 2009), Egmond aan Zee, The Netherlands, 10-12 March 2009. - Wageningen University - p. 60 - 61.
|Integrated assessment of nutrient management options in smallholder farming systems: The NUANCES framework
Tittonell, P.A. ; Rufino, M.C. ; Wijk, M.T. van; Herrero, M. ; Corbeels, M. ; Pacini, C. ; Smith, J. ; Karanja, S. ; Quiros, C. ; Mapfumo, P. ; Kungu, J. ; Baijukya, F.P. ; Kaizzi, C.K. ; Mwale, M. ; Sanogo, O. ; Yeboah, E. ; Nwage, D. ; Vanlauwe, B. ; Albrecht, A. ; Ridder, N. de; Giller, K.E. - \ 2009
In: Proceedings of the AgSAP Conference 2009 on Integrated Assessment of Agriculture and Sustainable Development (AgSAP 2009), Egmond aan Zee, The Netherlands, 10-12-March 2009. - Wageningen University - p. 40 - 41.
Identifying key entry-points for strategic management of smallholder farming systems in sub-Saharan Africa using the dynamic farm-scale simulation model NUANCES-FARMSIM
Wijk, M.T. van; Tittonell, P.A. ; Rufino, M.C. ; Herrero, M. ; Pacini, C. ; Ridder, N. de; Giller, K.E. - \ 2009
Agricultural Systems 102 (2009)1-3. - ISSN 0308-521X - p. 89 - 101.
soil fertility management - term crop response - western kenya - exploring diversity - resource-allocation - use efficiencies - field-scale - productivity - nitrogen - integration
African smallholder farming systems are complex, dynamic systems with many interacting biophysical subcomponents. In these systems the major inputs and outputs are managed by human agency ¿ the farmers. To analyse potential developmental pathways of smallholder farming systems in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), we recognised the need for a tool that can capture the effects and consequences of decision-making on the use of resources. Here we describe and apply such a new modelling tool, developed within the NUANCES framework (Nutrient Use in ANimal and Cropping systems: Efficiencies and Scales), called NUANCES-FARMSIM (FARM SIMulator), an integrated crop ¿ livestock model developed to analyse African smallholder farm systems. NUANCES-FARMSIM was used to analyse a representative case study farm in the highlands of Western Kenya, a site for which each of the components of FARMSIM has been thoroughly tested. We present the results of a sensitivity analysis which showed the model to be sufficiently robust to identify key management options that explain most of the variability in farm productivity, and the long-term consequences of these options for the case study farm. The analyses showed clearly that the most important decisions are those related to the interactions between the different components of the farm and therefore justify the need of integrating crop and livestock components within one modelling tool. The allocation of limited resources across the farm, and the way organic matter is recycled or redistributed within the farm determines the long-term production capacity of the system. The results of the sensitivity analyses further showed that for the case study farm in Western Kenya a strong focus on improving the reliability of the subsystem level or process descriptions will only result in minor improvement in simulating productivity at farm level
Land Use Functions: An approach for integrated assessment of the goods and services provided by agriculture in a multifunctional and sustainable context
Pérez-Soba, M. ; Jones, M. ; Pacini, C. ; Paracchini, M.L. - \ 2009
In: Proceedings of the Conference on Integrated Assessment of Agriculture and Sustainable Development: Setting the Agenda for Science and Policy (AgSAP 2009). Egmond aan Zee, The Netherlands, 10 - 12 March, 2009. - Wageningen : Wageningen University and Research Centre, Wageningen - ISBN 9789085854012 - p. 98 - 99.
|Processes influencing aquatic fauna
Gore, J.A. ; Mead, J. ; Penczak, T. ; Higler, L. ; Kemp, J. - \ 2008
In: Ecohydrology. Processes, models and case studies / Harper, D., Zalewski, M., Pacini, N., Wallingford : CABI - ISBN 9781845930028 - p. 62 - 87.
Transfer into decision support: the sustainability impact assessment tool (SIAT)
Sieber, S. ; Müller, K. ; Verweij, P.J.F.M. ; Haraldsson, H. ; Fricke, K. ; Pacini, C. ; Tscherning, K. ; Helming, K. ; Jansson, T.G. - \ 2008
In: Sustainability impact assessment of land use changes / Helming, K., Pérez-Soba, M., Tabbush, P., Berlin : Springer - ISBN 9783540786474 - p. 107 - 128.
This paper focuses on the development process and performance of the integrated meta-model Sustainability Impact Assessment Tool (SIAT), whose appropriateness for Sustainability Impact Assessment is finally discussed. The integrated meta-modelling approach SIAT is the central product of the project SENSOR, which innovates a simultaneous ex-ante policy impact assessment by 45 indicators with a full coverage of EU27. The knowledge-based model SIAT enables end users to assess the effects of land-use relevant EU-policy strategies and evaluate the impacts against sustainability criteria. The concept of the development process is crucial for the success of SIAT, since problem- and user-orientation can only be ensured by meeting precisely user’s requirements. The adequate external involvements of institutions in the design process as well as project-internal knowledge integration are essential keys for success. Latter focuses on quantitative assessments, qualitative knowledge and ensuring a consistent multi-scale interconnectivity. The novelty of the meta-model approach SIAT consists of the dual approach that a) analyses by ‘impact identification’ the effects of changes on multifunctional land use and subsequent b) assesses their fulfilment of sustainable tolerance limits through ‘sustainability (risk) valuation’. The model framework focuses on cross-sectoral trade offs and side effects of the six sectors agriculture, forestry, energy, transport, nature conversation and tourism. The regionalisation of results is rendered in administrative European regions (NUTS2/3). The discussion concludes that the integrated meta-model SIAT is a feasible model concept to conduct sustainability impact assessments.
Sustainability Impact Assessment Tools (SIAT) for European Analysis
Sieber, S. ; Verweij, P.J.F.M. ; Wien, J.J.F. ; Pohle, D. ; Fricke, K. ; Müller, K. ; Pacini, C. ; Haraldsson, H. - \ 2008
In: Impact Assessment of Land Use Changes: International Conference, Book of abstracts, Berlin, Germany, April 6-9, 2008. - Berlin (Germany) : Humboldt University Unter den Linden - p. 15 - 15.
Sustainability Impact Assessment Tools (SIAT) for Regionalised European Impact Analysis: Focusing on the design process
Sieber, S. ; Verweij, P.J.F.M. ; Wien, J.J.F. ; Pohle, D. ; Fricke, K. ; Müller, K. ; Pacini, C. ; Haraldson, H. ; Tscherning, K. ; Helming, K. - \ 2008
In: Proceedings of the iEMSs Fourth Biennial Meeting: International Congress on Environmental Modelling and Software iEMSs 2008, Barcelona, Spain, July 7-10, 2008. - Barcelona (Spain) : Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - p. 1008 - 1016.
|NUANCES-FARMSIM: a tool to analyse entry points for improved management of smallholder farming systems in sub-saharan Africa
Wijk, M.T. van; Rufino, M.C. ; Tittonell, P.A. ; Herrero, M. ; Pacini, C. ; Ridder, N. de; Giller, K.E. - \ 2007
In: Farming Systems Design 2007: an international symposium on Methodologies for Integrated Analysis of Farm Production Systems, book 1 - Farm-regional scale design and improvement, 10-12 September 2007 - Catania, Sicily, Italy. - Gorgonzola (MI), Italy : Global Print - ISBN 9788878304727 - p. 173 - 174.
Ecological-economic modelling to support multi-objective policy making: a farming systems approach implemented for Tuscany
Pacini, G.C. ; Wossink, G.A.A. ; Giesen, G.W.J. ; Huirne, R.B.M. - \ 2004
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 102 (2004)3. - ISSN 0167-8809 - p. 349 - 364.
conservation - agriculture - sustainability - benefits - europe
Currently, there is a major concern regarding agri-environmental issues. Farmers are viewed not only as food suppliers but also as the custodians of the countryside. This role of farmers has been officially acknowledged in the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) through a number of regulations that enforce agri-environment schemes and cross-compliance. However, under some circumstances these regulations have proved to be ineffective. Organic farming can play an important role for agri-environment schemes. The main aim of this study is to show the relevance of the assessment of the environmental performance of conventional and organic farming systems for the development of efficient agri-environment schemes. An holistically designed ecological-economic model was applied under current EU regulations and different policy scenarios. The model is based on a standard linear programming farm model extended with emission and evaluation figures retrieved from ecological models. Spatial aspects, such as pedo-climatic conditions, were included in the model. The approach was implemented for the case of northern Tuscany. Results indicated that organic farming systems (OFSs) were environmentally more beneficial than conventional farming systems (CFSs) and that current CAP market and income support schemes gave cause for an intensification of farm production and for an increase of environmental harm. They also showed that conventional farmers willing to produce environmental performances comparable to those of organic agriculture or to comply with environmental sustainability thresholds (ESTs) incur opportunity costs due to the need of application of organic crop management and/or extensification of the crop plan. Conclusions were drawn on the environmental performances of OFSs and CFSs, the impact of EU policies on sustainability of agriculture, opportunity costs of environmental benefits and on the practical use of the modelling framework for policy design. (C) 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
The EU's agenda 2000 reformand the sustainability of organic farming in Tuscany: ecological-econmic modelling at field and farm level
Pacini, G.C. ; Giesen, G.W.J. ; Wossink, G.A.A. ; Omodei-Zorini, L. ; Huirne, R.B.M. - \ 2004
Agricultural Systems 80 (2004)2. - ISSN 0308-521X - p. 171 - 197.
indicators - systems - efficiency
Sustainability has become a central issue in the agricultural sector, both for researchers, producers and policy-makers. The two main objectives of this paper are: (1) to present an holistically designed ecological-economic model to evaluate farm and field-level environmental-economic tradeoffs with special reference to multi-objective policy-making and (2) to evaluate the impact of the Agenda 2000 reform on sustainability of organic farming. The model was implemented for the case of organic dairy farming in northern Tuscany (Italy). Minor differences were found between the environmental and technical results of the model under the MacSharry and Agenda 2000 reforms. However, gross margins under the Agenda 2000 regulations were considerably higher. The spatial detail of the model proved particularly useful in the evaluation of the impact of environmental sustainability thresholds. Sensitivity analysis indicated the weak environmental points of the farming system (in this case mainly soil erosion) and the feasible levels of the various environmental aspects and their associated socio-economic costs. The application of the model for alternative policy scenarios provided insights into ways in which the cost economic efficiency of the Agenda 2000 agri-environment support scheme could be improved. The paper concludes with suggestions for further model research to contribute to the design of cost-efficient agri-environment payment schemes. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
An environmental-economic framework to support multi-objective policy-making
Pacini, G.C. - \ 2003
Wageningen University. Promotor(en): Ruud Huirne. - [S.l.] : S.n. - ISBN 9789064641985 - 173
economie - milieu - boekhouding - indicatoren - bedrijfssystemen - duurzaamheid (sustainability) - biologische landbouw - modellen - landbouwbeleid - alternatieve kosten - italië - toscane - agrarisch natuurbeheer - economics - environment - accounting - indicators - farming systems - sustainability - organic farming - models - agricultural policy - opportunity costs - italy - tuscany - agri-environment schemes
Keywords: environmental accounting, environmental indicators, farming systems, sustainability, organic farming, ecological-economic modelling, spatial analysis, multi-objective policy-making, opportunity cost.
There is a growing awareness in present-day society of the potential of sustainable farming systems to enhance wildlife and the landscape and to decrease environmental harm caused by farming practices. EU commitment to integrate environmental considerations into agricultural political agenda has resulted in the adoption of environmental cross-compliance and agri-environment support schemes. Sustainability can only be achieved through multi-objective policy tools. Furthermore, more insight is needed into the environmental-economic tradeoffs of farming systems to direct policy interventions towards sustainable development of rural areas. The main objective of the present research is to provide an environmental-economic framework for the design and evaluation of agricultural policy schemes aimed at the operationalisation of sustainability in agricultural areas. The research involved designing and applying (1) an environmental accounting information system (EAIS), and (2) an integrated ecological-economic model to evaluate sustainability of farming systems. First, the EAIS together with a set of economic indicators was applied to three case study farms representing organic, integrated and conventional farming systems. Results showed that organic farming systems have the potential to improve the efficiency of many environmental indicators in addition to being remunerative. Environmental performances of all farming systems analysed were consistently affected by pedo-climatic factors on a regional as well as on a site scale. Subsequently, the EAIS indicators were integrated with farm records from one of the case studies and were used as a data source for the construction of an integrated ecological-economic model. The model was first used to evaluate the impact of current (Agenda 2000) and previous (MacSharry reform) agro-environment regimes on sustainability of organic farming systems. Then, the model was used to analyse the impact of Agenda 2000 common market organisation and agri-environment schemes on conventional and organic farming systems. Results indicated that the level of sustainability achieved with organic farming was satisfactory under both the MacSharry reform and the Agenda 2000 regulations. Optimising the model under different policy scenarios confirmed that organic farming systems are environmentally more beneficial than conventional farming systems. Combining the model with sensitivity and scenario analyses enabled an evaluation of the opportunity costs incurred by farmers to supply environmental amenities. Finally, the use of such information to back policy decisions is discussed.
Evaluation of sustainability of organic, integrated and conventional farming systems: a farm and field-scale analysis
Pacini, G.C. ; Wossink, G.A.A. ; Vazzana, C. ; Huirne, R.B.M. - \ 2003
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 95 (2003). - ISSN 0167-8809 - p. 273 - 288.
european agriculture - indicators
Agricultural researchers widely recognise the importance of sustainable agricultural production systems and the need to develop appropriate methods to measure sustainability. The principal purpose of this paper is to evaluate the financial and environmental aspects of sustainability of organic, integrated and conventional farming systems (OFS, IFS and CFS, respectively) at farm level and on more detailed spatial scales. This was achieved by applying an integrated economic-environmental accounting framework to three case study farms in Tuscany (Italy) covering different farming systems (FSs) and different spatial scales. The environmental performances of the FSs were measured through the application of an environmental accounting information system (EAIS) at field, site and farm level. The EAIS indicators were then integrated with: (1) a set of financial indicators to evaluate the economic and environmental trade-offs between different FSs and (2) with information on the regional and site-specific soil and climate conditions to study the impact of different pedo-climates on the environmental performances of the FSs. The gross margins of steady-state OFSs were found to be higher than the corresponding CFS gross margins. The OFSs perform better than IFSs and CFSs with respect to nitrogen losses, pesticide risk, herbaceous plant biodiversity and most of the other environmental indicators. However, on hilly soils, erosion was found to be higher in OFSs than in CFSs. The pesticide and the nitrogen indicators in this study showed a similar environmental impact caused by integrated and conventional farming practices. Regional pedo-climatic factors were found to have a considerable impact on nutrient losses, soil erosion, pesticide risk and herbaceous plant biodiversity, site-specific: factors on nutrient losses and soil erosion. Results at field level suggest that herbaceous plant biodiversity and crop production are not always conflicting variables. Results of the case study farms are discussed and compared with environmental sustainability thresholds reported from EU Directives on nitrate and pesticides in groundwater and the literature. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.