main index

P00: frame around

P01: olicognography

P03: infrastructures




Graph Start

Core n
Half complex graph








Agriculture Sustainability & Assessment

Basic Olicognograph: Farm Thermal Economics

Prepare to Review the Modern Agriculture Models

Other methods are required to approach better understanding of what drive agriculture transformations of ecosystem turned into so called: Ager.

"1) Methods of energy balancing: depending on the system boundaries very different pictures of the energy use in agriculture can emerge. Jones presented a hierarchy of methods which can be applied to analyze energetic aspects of agroecosystems".

"2) Thermodynamic analysis represents the highest level and includes all energy flows as well as the entropy and order of the systems".

"3) Ecosystem analysis (Odum) introduced the term “emergy”. Emergy is defined as the energy of one type, i.e., solar energy, required to produce a certain good or flow. The emergy accounting unit is solar emjoules, The factor between the usual energy unit joules and solar emjoules is the transformity value. Emergy analysis embraces direct environmental resources (sun, wind, rain) as well as inputs fed to the investigated system through human economic system (processed materials, fuels, human labour)".

"4) The process analysis is a more mechanistic technique, attempting to trace all the energy inputs into an agricultural system, based on physical material flows".

"5) Some studies may be described as fossil fuel accounting exercises in which merely the input of direct energy into agricultural systems is calculated. An energy analysis can follow a life cycle assessment (LCA) approach. Life cycle assessment is a method to compile a total inventory, to evaluate and to assess all relevant environmental impacts".

"6) Life cycle assessment: method LCA consists of four generally accepted parts 1) Goal and scope definition 2) Life Cycle Inventory Analysis. 3) Life cycle impact assessment. 4) Improvement assessment". Energy inputs and outputs in agricultural systems Energy use is defined as the net energy used for production of an agricultural product until it is sold or leaves the farm, or is used as fodder for livestock.

"7) Energy use can be divided into direct and indirect energy use. Direct energy use is energy input used in production when such input can be directly converted into energy units (e.g. diesel-fuel, electricity and lubricants). Indirect energy use is energy of inputs used in the production when such inputs (e.g. machinery, fertilizers and pesticides) cannot be converted directly into energy".

Meanwhile, more scientific methods in thermoeconomics assessment will very probably evidence the merits of bioorganic agriculture. 'Pre - postmodern agriculture farmers' are using space for sun, water for H2O, ground not for soil purpose but almost as an inert support of chemical mixtures and biotechnologies for 'make it better than breastfeeding'. There, there will be increasing economical systems driven by monopolies (especially on genetically modified crops), manipulation and speculation bubbles, debts restructuring - subsidies, plenty (?) of junk food production nevertheless with high prices when food crisis, other industrial opportunities like with biofuels promoting hunger, and sort of science direct from laboratory to the field: one problem solved at time and exponential costs promoting desertification of rural space. But this does not mean necessarilly this space will be available for natural ecosystems come back.

"Agriculture is driven mainly by productivity growth in the agricultural sector. It is considered essential if agricultural sector output is to grow at a sufficiently rapid rate to meet the demands for food and raw materials arising out of steady population growth". The tightened dependence of farmers to supplies of food markets and their (often poor) returns make the needs of a wholistic approach of chain of food supply. "Food market development and detailed feasibility studies: 1) Suggest that information is needed on how the food marketing system could sustainably works (systems of telecommunication in interconnected systems of transport); 2) Stimulate a dialogue with traders, particularly when some or all are likely to be moved to new premises (involve groups of consummers); 3) identify the specific new requirements of traders and transporters, in terms of the trading space, services, facilities and parking areas they can require (reviews the options for energy savings); 4) Think about the cost implications of distributing food from the farm, through an assembly and wholesale market system to the retail level (establish pre-paid mechanisms and systems of insurrance); 5) Define the expected environmental and social consequences of the new market (traffic, pollution and imagine preventive and/or payment systems); 6) identify possible ways to involve private associations (existing or new ones) in the management and operation of markets; 7) define, in agreement with market users, the expected type of services and the level of fees and charges; 8) Involve community for ruling amenities and utilities at the market place, before, meanwhile, after trade period; 9) Discuss urban-periurban cooperation with rural suppliers".

How Modern Agriculture has disqualified Original Ecosystems

Natural mechanisms in original ecosystems developing biodiversity "can be: 1) Intermediate disturbance: highest diversity is maintained at intermediate levels of disturbance due to a mosaic of habitats, permitting both pioneers and late successionals to coexist. 2) Herbivore-driven forest diversity: establishment of young trees in the vicinity of their parents is constrained by the activity of tree-specific herbivores 3) Equilibrium model of resource competition: with an increase in the availability of resources, more species are supported which tap the resources efficiently, but as resource availability increases further, space and light are under establishment, occupancy, competition, domination, complementary, and sequences. 4) Neighbourhood recruitment limitation: due to dispersal ability, low local abundance or chance events, many species may be absent from a neighbourhood. 5) Pathogen-driven forest diversity".

"Most economic activities affect the environment, either through the use of natural resources as an input or by using the ‘clean’ environment as a sink for pollution. The output from agriculture is conventionally measured in financial terms. Farm income, or profit, on arable farms for example, is a function of yield, crop price, area payments, and the costs directly influenced by management variables such as input choices and levels of fertilizer. These traditional financial measures of business performance fail to adequately reflect the use of non-market natural capital and therefore fall short of providing the information necessary for society to move towards a more sustainable development path"

"Environmental effect categories: 1) Depletion of abiotic resources, 2) Acidification, 3) Depletion of biotic resources, 4) Nitrification, 5) Enhancement of greenhouse effect, 6) Waste heat, 7) Depletion of the ozone layer, 8) Odour, 9) Human toxicity, 10) Noise, 11) Ecotoxicity, 12) Damage to ecosystems and landscapes, 13) Photochemical oxidant formation, 14) Victims".

"The types of externalities encountered in the agricultural sector have 5 features: 1) their costs are often neglected; 2) they often occur with a time lag; 3) they often damage groups whose interests are notre presented; 4) the identity of the producer of the externality is not always known; and 5) they result in sub-optimal economic and policy solutions".

"Developments in modern agriculture have led to doubts regarding the long-term viability of current production systems. These developments include heavy reliance on chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides, the destruction of wildlife habitats, environmental pollution and risks to human health".

Modern Agriculture Environmental Effects

"Valuation techniques in agriculture Like any economic enterprise, farms have throughput. Energy and materials enter in purchased inputs and environmental flows (for example rainfall, sun) and are removed in commodities and outflows to the environment".

"Water run-off from agricultural land can carry fertilizer, pesticides, livestock wastes, salts, pathogens and eroded soils into streams, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters. Many recent environmental assessments identify agricultural run-off as a major cause of surface-water quality problems in developed countries".

"Air: agriculture contributes to atmospheric pollution through the emissions of four gases: methane from livestock, nitrous oxide from fertilizers, ammonia from livestock wastes and some fertilizers and carbon dioxide from energy / fossil fuel consumption and loss of soil carbon".

"Soil modern farming has accelerated erosion, primarily through the cultivation of winter cereals, the conservation of pasture to arable, the removal of field boundaries and hedgerows, and overgrazing of animals on grasslands. Soil erosion causes both on- and off-farm problems. Costs incurred by farmers themselves from soil erosion arise from: 1) loss of organic matter leading to decreased water holding capacity of soils and increased run-off; 2) loss of organic matter-rich soils reduces yields as crops are slower to germinate and; 3) loss of nutrients and crops themselves in water and wind erosion".

"Farmers and agricultural industry impact mostly in a negative way on biodiversity. In both natural and agricultural systems, many species, especially predators and parasites, control and help control herbivorous species. These natural enemies play a major role in keeping populations of many insect and mite pests under control. Like pest populations, beneficial natural enemies are adversely affected by pesticides. Outbreaks of secondary pests occur because their natural enemies are destroyed by pesticides, additional and more expensive pesticide treatments have to be made in effort to sustain crop yields". The externality costs of pesticide use can in this case being calculated as the costs of the extra pesticides and the increased crop losses".

"Honeybees and wild bees are vital for pollination of crops including fruit and vegetables. Because a lot of pesticides used in agriculture are toxic to bees, they have a major impact on the bee populations. About 20 % of all losses of honeybee colonies are due to pesticide exposure. The loss of habitat (e.g. loss of flowerrich meadows) is also an important reason for the reduced number of bee colonies".

"Pesticides are washed into aquatic ecosystems by water runoff and soil erosion. Once in aquatic systems they cause fishery losses in several ways. Wild birds are also damaged by pesticides. Effects on wildlife include death from direct exposure to pesticides or secondary poisonings from consuming contaminated prey, reduced survival, growth and reproductive rates from exposure to sublethal dosages; and habitat reduction through elimination of food sources and refuges. Earthworms play a key role in trash burial, nutrient cycling, soil aeration and drainage. However, they are sensitive to a range of agricultural activity including cultivation, fertilizer and pesticide use".

"Agricultural landscapes are the visible outcomes from the interaction between agriculture, natural resources and the environment, and encompass amenity, cultural and other societal values. Considering agricultural landscape as a public good, its economic value should be analyzed as such.

"Pesticides can affect workers health engaged in their manufacture, transport and disposal, operators who apply them in the field, and the general public. Both acute and chronic effects of pesticides warrant concern. The acute toxicity of most pesticides is well documented but information on chronic human illnesses resulting from pesticide exposure, including cancer, is weak and therefore it is hard to calculate the costs of chronic effects of pesticide use. Antibiotics and other antimicrobials are used in modern agriculture for therapeutic treatment of clinical diseases (20 %) and prophylactic use and growth promotion (80% of total). Concern is growing that overuse of antibiotics may render some human drugs ineffective and/or make some strains of bacteria untreatable".

"Basically pesticides are applied to protect crops from pests in order to preserve yields, but sometimes the crops are damaged by pesticide treatments. The extensive use of pesticides has often resulted in the development of pesticide resistance in insect pests, plant pathogens and weeds. In addition to pesticides that affect humans, domestic animals are also poisoned".

Redesign the Agrarian Models

(meanwhile see also the threats on future global food supply)

"The sustainable livelihoods framework depicts the 5 types of capital that rural residents access – physical, social, natural, financial, and human – the policies and institutions that define people’s options for using that capital, the livelihood strategies that people use to transform assets into income, service and product streams, and the way that income and product streams are translated into welfare outcomes.

A wide range of thresholds have been identified that affect the livelihoods of rural households.1) Thresholds in agricultural production are consistent with dynamic equilibria in which some farmers engage in high investment-high return enterprises while other farmers do not. 2) Thresholds in nonfarm rural employment are consistent with segmented rural labour markets and bifurcated welfare levels in which some families are able to afford to educate their children. 3) Thresholds in economies of scope among household livelihood strategies are consistent with the successful coupling of agricultural enterprises. 4) Thresholds in processing and marketing condition entry into higher-return value-adding activities post-harvest for rural households. Financing, scale of operation and infrastructure constraints may limit access to remunerative activities, such as bulk storage, cooling and pasteurization of milk in dairy cooperatives or horticultural products".

"Efficient energy used by the agricultural sector is one of the conditions for sustainable agriculture because it allows financial savings, fossil resources preservation and air pollution decrease. Environmental problems due to intensive use of energy remain crucial, especially because of CO2 and NOx emissions due to the fossil energy combustion, CO2 being the major “greenhouse gas” and the NOx being involved in the generation of the ozone-gap in the troposphere".

Redesign of the frame of rural values in the diversity of activities they often have: environmental services, rural tourism, handcraft, are to explore.

"The services of ecological systems and the natural capital stocks that produce them are critical to the functioning of the Earth’s life-support system. They contribute to human welfare, and therefore represent part of the total economic value of the planet. Ecosystem functions refer variously to the habitat, biological or system properties or processes of ecosystems. Ecosystems goods (such as food) and services (such as waste assimilation) represent the benefits human populations derive, directly or indirectly, from ecosystem functions".

Value services of ecological services methods are. "1) The market price. 2) The productivity method. 3) The hedonic pricing. 4) The travel cost method. 5) The damage cost avoided. 6) The contingent valuation method (CVM). 7) The contingent choice method. 8) The benefit transfer.

back to index...