Managing Ecosystems

Approaches to Sustainable Crop Production Intensification




In order to achieve sustainable crop production intensification, the different dimensions of sustainability (social, economic, and environmental) have to be considered as the overall context within which this should occur. At the technical level, a range of agricultural approaches, practices and technologies are available to increase production with a focus on environmental sustainability. These can be used in a complementary fashion, promoting an integrated system for crop production. Improving market linkages, reducing post-harvest losses and conserving agricultural biodiversity will help to improve the impact of farming practices; making the farming system more resilient and resulting in lower losses and a higher value of the products. Some of the approaches that aim to increase productivity in a sustainable manner, based on the services that ecosystems provide, include:


Agricultural Biodiversity
Conservation Agriculture
Integrated Pest Management
Pollination Management
Nutrient Management
Weed Management
Management of Grasslands
Soil Biodiversity
Sustainable Rice Systems
Crop-Livestock Systems


Other approaches that aim to increase and diversify agricultural production systems include agroforestry and integrated agriculture-aquaculture. Sustainable crop production intensification aims to increase crop production per unit area, taking into consideration all relevant factors affecting productivity and sustainability, including climate change, demand for (bio)energy and post-harvest management. With a particular focus on environmental sustainability through an ecosystem approach, sustainable crop production intensification aims to maximize options for crop production intensification through the management of biodiversity and ecosystem services.


Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem services are the benefits provided by ecosystems to humans, and can be:         

  • Supporting (e.g. soil formation, nutrient cycling, primary production)
  • Provisioning (e.g. food, fresh water, genetic resources)
  • Regulating (e.g. climate regulation, disease regulation, pollination)
  • Cultural (e.g. spiritual and religious, recreation and ecotourism).  

Adapted from: Ecosystems and human well-being: a framework for assessment. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2003

©FAO/Walter Astrada

International Symposium on Agroecology
18 – 19 September 2014
FAO Headquarters