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Journal Articles Agronomy for Sustainable Development Year : 2013

Stockless organic farming: strengths and weaknesses evidenced by a multicriteria sustainability assessment model

Bruno Colomb
  • Function : Author
Matthieu Carof
Anne Aveline
  • Function : Author
Jacques-Eric Bergez

Abstract

Agronomists need methodologies to assess the sustainability of cropping systems. Few models such as MASC have been recently developed for evaluation. The effective use of those models is still a challenge, notably for low-input systems. Here a more specific model entitled MASC-OF was developed and applied to study stockless organic cropping systems. The MASC-OF model is original because it is based on agricultural advisers’ needs and expertises. Two groups of advisers supported by agronomic scientists were involved in a nine-step methodology to progress from preliminary meetings to data analysis. The methodology allowed advisers to design a model including their own views on what is a sustainable organic cropping system. Soil fertility and weed and pest control were integrated as a new branch in the original MASC model. We also developed evaluation criteria for each basic attribute, defining aggregation rules and weighting attributes. Tested case studies were based on 44 real cropping systems identified on 19 farms in the Midi-Pyrenees region of France and on 23 cropping system types developed by the advisers from the Centre, Ile-de-France, Pays de Loire, Poitou-Charentes and Rhône-Alpes regions of France. Our results show that a high score of economic sustainability is the most difficult to achieve. This finding is explained by low productivity of cereal crops and high variability of market prices for organic grain. Further, agronomic viability is also difficult to ensure, as a consequence of poor soil-fertility management practices. The ability to achieve social acceptability for the producer, including workload and health risk, is high. By contrast, acceptability for the society has a medium score due to reduced productivity and contribution to local employment. Environmental sustainability is the easiest dimension to achieve, despite nitrogen-loss risks in some situations and high water and energy consumption in irrigated systems. Overall our findings show that the potential for the development of more sustainable organic cropping systems in stockless farms is high.
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Dates and versions

hal-01201369 , version 1 (17-09-2015)

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Bruno Colomb, Matthieu Carof, Anne Aveline, Jacques-Eric Bergez. Stockless organic farming: strengths and weaknesses evidenced by a multicriteria sustainability assessment model. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 2013, 33 (3), pp.593-608. ⟨10.1007/s13593-012-0126-5⟩. ⟨hal-01201369⟩
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