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.


This policy brief is one in a series led by Chulalongkorn University with support from the Office of the Higher Education Commission, Ministry of Education, Thailand, in partnership with FAO. The series was initiated to support the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Work Plan on Education, 2016–2020 implementation while...
Policy brief/paper
As agroecology has increasingly been brought into the international dialogue on the future of food and agriculture, there have been calls for building the evidence base of its performance across the multiple dimensions of sustainability and its capacity to achieve multiple Sustainable Development Goals. In response to this need, FAO...
Durante mucho tiempo la producción de ganado en el trópico seco se ha centrado en el desmonte del bosque (también llamado “monte”) y la siembra de pastos mejorados. Sin embargo, el bosque tropical seco alberga numerosas especies de árboles y arbustos con potencial forrajero. Cada vez son más reconocidos los...
On 30 August 2021, Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajpaksa declared an economic emergency. The decision was taken to curb hoarding of essential items and to control inflation since the country is faced with a shortage of food items and a steep rise in prices of essential commodities. In April, President Rajapaksa...
Sri Lanka
This master's degree is carried out in collaboration with the International University of Andalusia, the University of Cordoba, and the Pablo de Olavide University and aims to strengthen a critical and complex perspective and praxis on agri-food systems and forms of agroecological social transition through forms of collective social action and public policies. The application process...