Agroecology Knowledge Hub

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.


The global impacts of the climate crisis are becoming ever clearer, and natural resources and ecosystems are being depleted. Despite some progress, hunger and poverty persist, and inequalities are deepening. The world is realizing that unsustainable high external inputs and resource-intensive industrialized systems pose a real danger of biodiversity loss,...
Policy brief/paper
High rates of worldwide consumption of non-renewable fossil fuel and dedicated biomass crops for biofuels that may lead to supply shortages and to a limitation in biomass-derived fuels production and development, pose a great challenge to provide enough raw industrial materials in a sustainable way. In order to acquire high production...
Journal article
In Central Cameroon cocoa is mainly produced by household farming systems based on complex associations between cocoa and companion trees. Setup either on native/remnant forest or savannah, these agroforestry systems (AFS) are managed according their geographical position and local pedoclimatic conditions. In this paper, the authors investigated the effects of...
Journal article
Feeding and nourishing a growing and changing global population in the face of rising numbers of chronic hunger, slow progress on malnutrition, environmental degradation, systemic inequality, and the dire projections of climate change, demands a transformation in global food systems. Policy change at multiple levels is critical for catalysing an...
Working paper
The Proceedings book includes the contributions from agreocology experts and practitioners that took part as speakers in the International Symposium on Agroecology for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems in China held Kunming, Yunnan, China from 29-31 August 2016. The volume has been prepared in order to collect and disseminate further...
Conference proceedings