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Efficiency : innovative agroecological practices produce more using less external resources

Increased resource-use efficiency is an emergent property of agroecological systems that carefully plan and manage diversity to create synergies between different system components. For example, a key efficiency challenge is that less than 50 percent of nitrogen fertilizer added globally to cropland is converted into harvested products and the rest is lost to the environment causing major environmental problems.

Agroecological systems improve the use of natural resources, especially those that are abundant and free, such as solar radiation, atmospheric carbon and nitrogen. By enhancing biological processes and recycling biomass, nutrients and water, producers are able to use fewer external resources, reducing costs and the negative environmental impacts of their use. Ultimately, reducing dependency on external resources empowers producers by increasing their autonomy and resilience to natural or economic shocks.

One way to measure the efficiency of integrated systems is by using Land Equivalent Ratios (LER). LER compares the yields from growing two or more components (e.g. crops, trees, animals) together with yields from growing the same components in monocultures. Integrated agroecological systems frequently demonstrate higher LERs.

Agroecology thus promotes agricultural systems with the necessary biological, socio-economic and institutional diversity and alignment in time and space to support greater efficiency.

Database

This article reviews the main initiatives underlying ecologically intensive agroecosystems, analyses basic concepts, and proposes a framework for action. The rainforest model, the dry forest model, and the American Prairie are exemplified as three main natural systems at the basis of the mimicry concept. The link between biodiversity and the...
Journal article
2012
The Map of Agroecology Knowledge and Practice is a technological platform that allows the mapping and exchange of Agroecological experiences in order to bring people (in every nook and cranny, from the countryside to the city), to strengthen, and create new networks of collaboration that enhance the sharing of real...
Website
2019
Smallholder farmers in semi-arid Africa are in an increasingly vulnerable position due to the direct and indirect effects of climate change, demographic pressure and resource degradation. Conservation agriculture (CA) is promoted as an alternative to restore soil productivity through increased water and nutrient use efficiencies in these regions. However, adoption...
Journal article
2012
Networked Agroecology is a system of information on initiatives in Agroecology. It consists of three interconnected databases: the Experiences, the Research Bank and the Contact Bank (personal and institutional). Database queries and entries can be made freely by system visitors. The following organizations are responsible for managing the databases: • National Articulation...
Website
2019
In a context of a changing climate and growing concerns for more healthy food systems, agroecology is gaining momentum as a scientific discipline, sustainable farming approach and social movement. There is growing anecdotal and case study evidence of its multiple benefits, from climate resilience to farm productivity. Yet its promotion...
Policy brief/paper
2014