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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

Both the IPCC and IPBES claim that a “transformative” change that can still reverse the catastrophic trends through an agroecological approach. Within this context, this fact sheet, elaborated by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) calls for an increase in awareness among decision-makers of the significant potential of agroecology to tackle challenges...
Fact sheet
2019
Farmers are facing serious plant protection issues and phytosanitary risks, in particular in the tropics. Such issues are food insecurity, lower income in traditional low-input agroecosystems, adverse effects of pesticide use on human health and on the environment in intensive systems and export restrictions due to strict regulations on quarantine...
Journal article
2011
Featuring cases in different sectors and countries around the world, this publication introduces the agroecology approach to linking food, livelihoods and natural resources, presents 10 Elements of Agroecology, and looks at ways of scaling up the people-centred approach to ensure its potential impact is fully realized, promising a brighter future...
Report
2018
Agroecosystems represent 38 % of global land use. Agroecosystems are located close to human settlements and are managed to produce food and fibers, traded in markets. Agroecosystems also produce other goods and services essential to human beings, such as climate regulation, flood mitigation, and landscape amenity. Economists and ecologists have...
Journal article
2015
Agroecology is not a new invention. It can be identified in scientific literature since the 1920s, and has found expression in family farmers’ practices, in grassroots social movements for sustainability and the public policies of various countries around the world. More recently, agroecology has entered the discourse of international and UN...
Book
2018