• Reduce text

    Reduce text
  • Restore text size

    Restore text size
  • Increase the text

    Increase the text
  • Print

    Print

Characterising the diversity of farming systems

Characterising the diversity of farming systems beyond the contrast between organic and conventional agriculture: inputs, ecosystem services and socioeconomic contexts have been studied and enabled the determination of six main types of agriculture.

Principal types of agriculture seeking greater sustainability (from 1a to 2c) where the production systems (PS) are represented as a function of (i) the relative share of ecosystem services or exogenous inputs mobilised for agricultural production (axis Y) and (ii) the type of relationships they maintain with their socioeconomic context, based on the global market prices of the products and agricultural components or integration in territorial dynamics (axis X); the principal types of agriculture have been numbered 1 and 2 to take account of the paradigm shift linked to the type of inputs; the letters a, b and c reflect their increasing degree of insertion in territorial dynamics. Emblematic examples are shown in red.. © Olivier Therond, Michel Duru, Jean Roger-Estrade, Guy Richard (c)

We are currently seeing a proliferation of initiatives which aim to propose agricultural production methods that are more sustainable than the conventional model: ecoagriculture, permaculture, organic, precision, integrated, conservation or climate-intelligent agriculture, etc. Each of these types often covers a broad range of practices or corresponds to production systems with differing environmental and socioeconomic performance.

To structure the debate on the diversity of farming systems, INRA scientists have developed an analytical framework for the diversity of agricultural production systems and farming types.

Production systems as a function of input types

Farmers implement crop or livestock management practices according to two main strategies: (i) to artificialise the environment by using industrial inputs (including energy for soil structuring), (ii) to develop the ecosystem services supplied by nature. In most production systems, both types of input are mobilised but at varying proportions.

 The socioeconomic contexts of agricultural production systems

The socioeconomic contexts in which production systems are implemented determine the types and prices of their inputs and their resulting agricultural products and hence their biotechnical functioning. Four principal types of socioeconomic context coexist:

  • 1.  Industrialised and globalised food systems organised around highly competitive markets, which pose problems of sustainability.
  • 2.  Local or regional products to develop a circular economy which offer opportunities to replace chemical inputs with organic inputs and thus diversify production systems (production of “energy” biomass).
  • 3. Projects on the development of alternative food systems to respond to the challenges of human health, product quality, social equality and (re)localisation.
  • 4. Integrated territorial development projects involving agriculture which mobilise the levers of the circular economy and alternative food systems, supplementing those of integrated landscape management to enable the development of ecosystem services.

The degree of integration of production systems in these different socioeconomic contexts determines the relative weights of relationships based on the prices of inputs and agricultural products in globalised markets versus those based on social goals (equality, distribution of added value, etc.), respect for the environment or relocation.

An analytical framework for different types of agriculture

On this basis, an analytical framework has been built for different types of agriculture (see the Figure below).

Principal types of agriculture seeking greater sustainability (from 1a to 2c) where the production systems (PS) are represented as a function of (i) the relative share of ecosystem services or exogenous inputs mobilised for agricultural production (axis Y) and (ii) the type of relationships they maintain with their socioeconomic context, based on the global market prices of the products and agricultural components or integration in territorial dynamics (axis X); the principal types of agriculture have been numbered 1 and 2 to take account of the paradigm shift linked to the type of inputs; the letters a, b and c reflect their increasing degree of insertion in territorial dynamics. Emblematic examples are shown in red.. © Olivier Therond, Michel Duru, Jean Roger-Estrade, Guy Richard (c)
© Olivier Therond, Michel Duru, Jean Roger-Estrade, Guy Richard (c)

Ecosystem services
Territorial roots
Exogenous inputs
Relationships based on global market prices
2a. Biodiversified PS forming part of globalised food systems
Diversified cropping and livestock systems
 Integrated “Food-Energy” systems
2b. Biodiversified PS forming part of alternative food systems and circular economies
Integrated territorial approach
2c. Biodiversified PS forming part of alternative food systems, circular economies and multi-service landscape management.
1b. PS based on organic inputs forming part of globalised food systems
Specialised cropping and livestock systems
1a. PS based on chemical inputs forming part of globalised food systems
Exchanges with other sectors
1c. PS based on organic inputs forming part of globalised food systems and circular economies
Exchanges between specialised PS.
Legend: Principal types of agriculture seeking greater sustainability (from 1a to 2c) where the production systems (PS) are represented as a function of (i) the relative share of ecosystem services or exogenous inputs mobilised for agricultural production (axis Y) and (ii) the type of relationships they maintain with their socioeconomic context, based on the global market prices of the products and agricultural components or integration in territorial dynamics (axis X); the principal types of agriculture have been numbered 1 and 2 to take account of the paradigm shift linked to the type of inputs; the letters a, b and c reflect their increasing degree of insertion in territorial dynamics. Emblematic examples are shown in red.Six types of agriculture representing a gradient of use of ecosystem services and territorial support are highlighted in the diagram (see the links in the insert below for more detail). This non-exhaustive list is intended to be further supplemented.
Usefulness of a typology of forms of agriculture
The analytical framework thus proposed removes the limitations of standard classifications: "conventional farming”, “agroecology” and “organic farming”. It helps to clarify the structure of food systems from the “local” to the “global” and refines the potential role of the bioeconomy in all these types of agriculture. But they do not all have the same research needs….
Perspectives
In order to support public decision-making, this work will be pursued by developing a method for the multi-criteria and multi-level evaluation of these different types of agriculture and an analysis of the conditions for transition from one type to another.

Six types of agriculture representing a gradient of use of ecosystem services and territorial support are highlighted in the diagram (see the links in the insert below for more detail). This non-exhaustive list is intended to be further supplemented.

Usefulness of a typology of forms of agriculture

The analytical framework thus proposed removes the limitations of standard classifications: "conventional farming”, “agroecology” and “organic farming”. It helps to clarify the structure of food systems from the “local” to the “global” and refines the potential role of the bioeconomy in all these types of agriculture. But they do not all have the same research needs….

Perspectives

In order to support public decision-making, this work will be pursued by developing a method for the multi-criteria and multi-level evaluation of these different types of agriculture and an analysis of the conditions for transition from one type to another.

Contact(s)
Scientific contact(s):

Associated Division(s):
Environment and Agronomy
Associated Centre(s):
Occitanie-Toulouse, Versailles-Grignon, Colmar

Find out more

"A new analytical framework of farming system and agriculture model diversities: a review" ; Olivier Therond, Michel Duru, Jean Roger-Estrade, Guy Richard.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13593-017-0429-7