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Integrated production systems

Production et ressources


Integrated production systems use some outputs (e.g. by-products) and services of one production component as input to another within the farm unit. These kinds of systems are the focus of this module and include: agroforestry, integrated crop-livestock, rice-fish, food-energy systems, and less widespread systems, such as aquaponics.

Chapter B5-1 presents the interrelations between integrated production and climate change. Chapter B5-2 discusses the contribution of each integrated system to sustainable production intensification, climate change adaptation and mitigation and provides guidance on adaptive management. Chapter B5-3 discusses the barriers to the adoption of climate-smart integrated production systems and the enabling environment for overcoming them.

Specialized production systems are the subject of other modules in the Sourcebook: module B1 on climate-smart crop production, module B2 on livestock production, module B3 on forestry and in module B4 on fisheries and aquaculture. In integrated systems, specific methods for diversifying production are promoted to minimize risks. Diversification may consist of mixing within crops and/or animal systems (e.g. multiple cropping over time and/or space, or managing different feed resources and animal species or breeds), or it may entail diversifying the orientation of production in ways that the different production components of the farming system co-exist independently from each other. Individual production systems, both integrated and specialized, that exchange resources and act together as a diversified system at the landscape level are addressed in module A3.

Key messages

  • Successful production integration rests on a comprehensive understanding of the synergies and trade-offs between the various components of the system and the farmer’s ability to optimize synergies and reduce these trade-offs.
  • Agroforestry, integrating crops with trees and/or livestock, provides diversified production that can increase farmers’ resilience to market fluctuations and market failures that may result from the impacts of climate change. Farmers often respond to climate variations by progressively modifying their farming practices and integrating trees on farms. It is important to understand this autonomous adaptation process in order to replicate the most successful agroforestry systems in similar social, cultural and ecological circumstances. 
  • In integrated crop-livestock systems, livestock transform plant residues and by-products into edible high-quality protein and manure, which is an organic fertilizer and increases crop productivity. Worldwide, livestock integration with crops is the only large-scale example of successful long-term integrated production system at the supply-chain level.
  • Integrated rice-fish systems, though highly variable in terms of their input intensity and management practices, provide additional food and income by diversifying farm activities and increasing yields of both the rice and fish crops. 
  • Integrated food-energy systems address both food and energy needs in a sustainable manner, while contributing to climate change adaptation and mitigation. However, there are relatively few examples of successful integrated food-energy systems. Barriers to their wider implementation revolve around the fact that integrated food-energy systems are knowledge-intensive systems and often demand more labour and investments. Often there is a lack of market opportunities for the additional products they generate compared to conventional systems. The adoption of integrated food-energy systems requires the systematic assessment of their sustainability, their replicability and potential incentives.