SW-5 :: Sustainable agriculture and food production

In the strategic research program for Future Agriculture – Livestock, Crops and Land Use (Bengtsson et al., 2010) six major challenges were identified:
- Reduction of the environmental impact of agriculture and mitigation of climate change
- Adaptation of agriculture to a changing climate
- Management of present and potential risks
- Responses to societal values and contribution to policies
- Agriculture and rural development
- Resolution of conflicting goals of agriculture and land use
Another relevant publication is “Scenario Development as a Basis for Formulating a Research Program on Future Agriculture. A Methodological Approach (Öborn et al (2013)).
Based on above mentioned challenges, knowledge gaps were identified and used to identify key research questions. Some of the questions, listed below, are relevant from the perspective of physical planning and land use, and need to be addressed to prepare for an unknown future.
Following the conceptual model of INSPIRATION, specific research topics marked “SH” originate in stakeholder interviews and the workshop. Those marked “FA” originate in research goals identified by the Future Agriculture platform. There are also some common research needs identified marked with “CN”.):
• How can we achieve a sustainable food production in terms of quantity, quality, and minor environmental impact? (SH)
Why? Swedish agriculture faces the challenge of maintaining a balance between increasing its efficiency per unit (i.e. per hectare or per animal) and at the same time meeting society’s demand for improvements in product quality, and invention of new products such as bioenergy. This is also in line with the increasing consumer demand for food produced in an ethical and environmental way. All of this requires further research and development.
Natural Capital (FA)
• What are the functions of different kinds of organisms and populations in real production systems?
• How can crop species and varieties, and livestock species and breeds, be adapted to new climatic conditions, such as higher temperatures, longer drought periods and extreme weather events, and what is the potential for domesticating ‘new’ species, e.g. to utilize marginal areas or organic waste?
• How can resource use efficiency and production be increased on agricultural land while maintaining ecosystem services, biodiversity and animal welfare?
• How can integrated systems, at different scales, for crop, livestock and energy production be designed and evaluated?
• Which options for new land uses are available and what are the potential advantages and disadvantages of using more land for different types of agricultural production?
Why? Adaptation of agriculture to a changing climate is necessary and the above mentioned issues are crucial for land management based on understanding the systems, processes and functions and in a changing climate.
Land Management (FA)
• What is the normative status of different forms of agricultural production of food, feed, energy etc., i.e., are they perceived as right or wrong in society?
• How do political processes related to climate, the environment, biodiversity, trade, rural development, animal health and welfare etc. lead to international, regional and national agreements, policy instruments and laws supporting or restricting agricultural land use and production?
• What are the effects and consequences of various international agreements, policies and laws on agricultural production and land use?
• How can threats to food security caused by climate change and other ecosystem changes or collapses be managed and avoided?
• How do agricultural production systems constitute threats for ecosystem resilience, and affect risks of ecosystem and environmental collapse, and climate-induced catastrophes?
Net Impacts
• What are the effects of increased competition for land based resources on producer prices and the economy in the agricultural sector, e.g. more large-scale and specialized production, or integration of production in new kinds of ownership and collaboration? (FA)
• What is the importance of different forms of land tenure, ownership, and collective action for agriculture and rural development? (FA)
• How do urban and rural areas interact through flows of natural resources, goods, energy, ideas, capital, people, and through means of transportation? (FA)
• How can economic and social sustainable development in rural areas and food security in cities be combined? (FA)
• What are the conflicts and trade-offs between different agricultural land uses, including conflicts between goals, different techniques and land management systems? (FA)
• What are the possibilities for resolving conflicts between urbanisation and agriculture, e.g. urban planning, urban farming and small-scale production in urban or peri-urban areas? (FA)
• How can trade-offs and synergies between ecosystem services, production, climate impact, biodiversity, animal and human welfare and health be identified and managed? (FA)
• What are the possibilities for multiple-use and multifunctional systems to resolve conflicts in agriculture and land use? (FA)
• How can agriculture mitigate land degradation and environmental pollution? (FA)
• How can nutrients, water and wastes at different scales be recycled more efficiently? (FA)
• What are the environmental and climate impacts of structural changes in agriculture– specialization versus integration, small scale versus large scale, and geographic localisation? (FA)
• How do human activities and behaviour affect food and water quality and production – We farm near and “on” the water, but little research today is done on the effects of exploiting land. (SH)