There is an urgent need to better understand how the organization not only of agricultural activity but of the whole agro-food system affects the functioning of the environmental system at small and large scales, and across a large range of bio-climatic regions of the world, taking into account the diversity of the different agro-food systems (Mueller et al 2012), and the need to safeguard them as far as they are able to meet the local human needs (De Schuter, 2010; Fader et al 2013; MacDonald et al 2013).
The challenge is therefore to carry out in parallel local studies of the agricultural systems, taking into account the specificities of pedo-climatic conditions (e.g. in Europe temperate vs. Mediterranean systems), and at the same time to develop a summarizing, unifying and comparative view of how the whole system is working.
Role in Towards INMS
- Existing research efforts will support the development of a regional demonstration in West Europe.
The aims will consist of defining and measuring innovative indicators of agronomical and environmental performances of cropping systems, based on field observations, inquiries and experimental work conducted at the scale of instrumented watersheds located respectively in a gradient of temperate to Mediterranean pedoclimatic regions in the European Atlantic Façade. The tool “Graphs” has been developed which documents agricultural activity and calculates its impact on environmental quality in terms of surpluses, e.g. budgeting nutrient surface soil balances. This tool can be applied at a variety of scales, depending on the agricultural statistics data (administrative territories such as department of provinces, regions, countries).
- The approach will be two-fold, on the one hand it will consist of a comparative synthesis of field measurements conducted at the scale of two experimental watersheds (about 100-360 km²) respectively located in temperate and Mediterranean climate zones. The data acquired at that scale will then feed the analysis of the water-agro-food system of regional watersheds in Europe, along the temperate to Mediterranean climatic gradient, from the Rhine to the Guadalquivir.
- The second approach involves utilising the results of the EU NitroPortugal project which will lead to the basis for the first Portuguese Nitrogen Assessment. Linking with this activity will allow the nitrogen issue to be viewed in a Southern European context. Whilst both these activities are a significant start to a regional demonstration activity, due to the nature of the core projects and partners involved in the work, much of the output from the former activity will relate to the water system and that from the latter activity to only one country. However in the context of the demonstration and as the INMS project progresses we anticipate that we will involve studies and experts to place this study in the wider context of the nitrogen cycle and the aims of the demonstration activities as a whole.
- This demonstration will characterise the agronomical and environmental performances of cropping systems using several indicators and integrative approaches at the scale of the two contrasted experimental catchments, with the aim of upscalling the approach to North European Atlantic domain.