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.


Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) have been established to help the hundreds of smallholder farmers in India who are unable to gain cost-prohibitive certifications for organic farming. These systems allow access to a fair and transparent market system and grant farmers a direct stake holding in the supply chain of clean...
Case study
Large, decimated ecosystems can be restored. Bringing large areas back from environmental ruin is possible, and the results are key to stabilizing the earth's climate, eradicating poverty and making sustainable agriculture a reality. Under the guidance of a few people who have knowledge and vision, local uneducated rural poor can...
In Latin America, numerous farmers' movements, civil society organizations, and scientists involved with the public sector have formed the agroecological movement as a response to the agricultural and food crisis that has been fundamentally shifting from the implementation and expansion of intensive agriculture. Through this movement, they aim to redefine...
In Cambodia, small-scale farmers are facing the issue of low economic returns from their rice farming because of low productivity and high input costs. The system of rice intensification (SRI) allows farmers to use less inputs. In dry areas, SRI could result in an average yield of 3.6 tonnes/ha, while...
This article is the Preface of the virtual issue Agroecological Engineering, published in the journal Agronomy for Sustainable Development ( of the French National Institute of Agricultural Research ( "Bring diversity back to agriculture. That's what made it work in the first place." David R. Brower.
Journal article