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.


In September 2015, family farmer Jyoti Fernandes spoke at a Policy Debate in the European Parliament. The video is embedded below and a full transcript of the talk is available here. Being part of the UK Landworkers’ Alliance and the European Coordination of La Vía Campesina (host of the debate),...
It is generally accepted that agriculture is a major driver of climate change as well as being acutely challenged to adapt to its effects. Agroecological approaches involve the application of integrated ecological, economic and social principles to the transition of smallholder farming systems, towards greater resilience. This involves adapting 13...
Working paper
Agroecology is not a new invention. It has already been applied for decades in family farmers’ practices and has guided both policymakers and grassroots social movements in various countries around the world. However, recent global discussions on agroecology across its three different dimensions, namely scientific discipline, agricultural practice and political-​social...
This recommendation paper presents general recommendations for food systems transformation to achieve net-zero emissions from food production by 2030 and net negative emissions from food systems by 2050. According to the document the following actions are needed to transform food systems: 1. A global shift to nature-positive production: Nature-positive food production systems protect...
Policy brief/paper
This course addressed issues and articulations around local agroecological based food systems, including food resistances, which together with agroecological experiences constitute the responses against agro-industrial crops (genetically modified, monocultures, biofuels, greenhouses, etc.) and food models (large surfaces, junk food, school catering, etc.) that generate enormous inequalities and seriously affect the...