Sustainable Agricultural Systems
Agriculture as direct link between natural resources, society and economy has particular importance within the sustainability discussion. Conventional agricultural production systems all over the world have high energy demands and therefore contribute largely to the green house effect and climate change. They burden soil and water with agro-chemicals, cause decline or loss of plant and animal species and therefore reduce biodiversity, lead to degradation, desertification, erosion of soils and in many cases leave poorly structured and monotonous agricultural landscapes. Further intensification in agriculture, long distance transports between different proceeding stages and to the market call for the development of alternative strategies and new locally adapted concepts for sustainable agriculture.
Sustainable agricultural systems base on the principles of keeping resource-, material- and economic flows as regional as possible and adopt a paradigm shift from a short-term quantitative towards a long-term qualitative approach. Organic agriculture is the core of the concept and represents the sustainability interface between human activities and ecosystems. However, the concept of sustainable agriculture goes further and incorporates the system of organic agriculture into the local economy and the social potential.
As for the method of applied research in a given situation the "Systems Approach of Agricultural Analysis" (1) was developed within the SUCCESS project. This approach reveals all the interfaces of agriculture with other areas of life and sectors of economy and contributes to a comprehensive understanding of the consequences of farming and marketing practices on social communities and the environment. Furthermore potentials for the implementation of sustainable agricultural systems - organic farming, regional processing and marketing and para-agricultural activities (2, 3) (see publications) - can be identified and assessed. One of the aims of this kind of research, which is well appropriate to case study situations (4), is that new fields and strategies of activity arise, which are important to come to comprehensive measures and lead to ecological, economic and social stabilisation of agricultural and rural structures. In this concern it is important to realise that sustainability research and implementation are highly dynamic local processes corresponding to each other continuously.
1) PRÄNDL-ZIKA, 2003. Agriculture in the Systemic Approach of SUCCESS
2) DAX; LOIBL; OEDL-WIESER; Österreichische Bundesanstalt für Bergbauernfragen 1995a; LOIBL 1997
3) PRÄNDL-ZIKA, 2004. From Organic Cultivation towards Sustainable Agriculyture
4) SUCCESS Workpackage J: Optimisation of the Eco-Economic System; Task 2: Ways towards Sustainable Agriculture