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.


Agroecology Newsletter of March 2017
The Polyculture Market Garden Study is one of the programs currently running at Balkan Ecology Project and is a multiyear study of a 0.5 acre (2000 m2) market garden growing herbs, vegetables and perennial fruit and nuts in polycultures. The project’s mission is to develop and promote practices that provide...
Case study
“Arrecifes”, located in the Pampas region, has undergone an intense process of soybean production in the last 20 years, due to its higher economic profitability, which could have led to negative balances of nutrients and loss of soil carbon. This degradation of natural capital would involve a "hidden cost" that has not...
Journal article
The green revolution raised Vietnamese farmers' awareness converted their natural farming methods into conventional agriculture using short-term rice and vegetable hybrids and intensive inputs of agrochemicals. Unfortunately, Vietnamese society nowadays has a considerable concern about conventional farming's side-effect on human health and the natural environment. There is a robust demand...
Viet Nam
Working paper
In 2020, the Tool for Agroecology Performance Evaluation (TAPE) was used in Mali to assess the status of the agroecological transition of local farms and to identify its correlation with farms' quantitative performance across the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainability. This study aims to present the evidence on the...