Farming systems

2.1 Digital innovations for more sustainable agricultural landscapes

Robert Finger, ETH Zürich, Switzerland
Robert Huber, ETH Zürich, Switzerland
Yanbing Wang, ETH Zürich, Switzerland
Madhu Khanna, University of Illinois, United States of America

Digital innovations in agriculture can be vital to rendering agricultural systems and landscapes sustainable. Digitalization can contribute to lower environmental footprints, lower costs, more diversity, higher profits of farming, greater animal welfare, and to better agricultural policy. Digitalization has long been enacted in precision farming technologies. Yet, technology alone is insufficient. The new technologies need to be considered in conjunction with the diversity of agricultural systems and landscapes as well as markets and policies in which agriculture is embedded. Only then sustainable (and ‘smart’) futures of farming in the digital era can be achieved. Moreover, the current production-oriented focus of ‘precision farming’ on producing more with less cost needs to be expanded to a ‘precision conservation’ focus, targeting conservation practices that maximize environmental and economic benefits. To this end, the on-farm focus also needs to be expanded into a diverse agricultural landscape focus.
In this session, we will present cutting-edge interdisciplinary research on precision farming and precision conservation that aims to support sustainable landscape management systems.
This session aims to bring together aspects from agronomy, ecology, earth system sciences and economics. Contributions will combine field-, farm-, and landscape-level perspectives on digital innovations. Farmers’ behaviour shall play an important role in this session as well as the economic and ecological assessment of new technologies. Finally, the session aims to show how effective and efficient policies can be designed. We encourage participation from contributors from across world regions.


2.2 Assessing crop diversification potential under climate change

Christoph Gornott, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Germany
Abel Chemura, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Germany

Now and under future climatic conditions, specially-explicit quantitative assessments of crop diversification are key for adaptation planning as crop diversification is among the most promising adaptation measures. This session provides state of the art current scientific developments in assessing diversification potential under climate change in farming systems using various methods and scales. These range from modelling tools, field methods and qualitative tools that inform crop diversification potential or likelihood. The viability and contributions of various types of crop diversification systems will be presented. It is expected that the session will provide a platform to increase traction of diversification through scientific data. Such information will also help to provide a framework to measure progress towards crop diversification between different times and locations, and in cost and benefit analysis of crop diversification in national climate change adaptation plans.
Crop diversification is among the easiest, most effective and cheapest adaptation measures and yet its implementation is limited by lack of quantitative data. In addition, diets in many countries consists of crop combinations, making it important that these are available under climate change. Quantitative and qualitative assessments of diversification potential are important in providing evidence based and science-informed adaptation planning that will reduce food insecurity.
We warmly invite you to submit abstracts for our session: “Assessing crop diversification potential under climate change”. The session will be held in a mixed format including one keynote presentation from the invited speaker, presentations and a general discussion on best practices, challenges and opportunities for assessing crop diversification potential under climate change. We especially invite early career researchers and postgraduate students, NGOs and development practitioners working on crop diversification under climate change to submit an abstract for a contribution in this session.


2.3 Quantifying the impacts of diversity on the resilience of agriculture

Pytrik Reidsma, Wageningen University, The Netherlands
Miranda Meuwissen, Wageningen University, The Netherlands

According to resilience theory, diversity enhances resilience. Farming systems can be diverse at different levels: in cultivars, crops, ecosystem services, farm and off-farm activities, farm types, landscapes and supply chains. While there is little doubt about the importance of diversity for resilience, quantitative empirical evidence is still scarce. Long time series are needed, which are not available for all relevant indicators. While time series data are increasingly becoming available for crop yields and farm income, data on environmental and social indicators are more difficult to obtain. In addition, the data should allow to compare diverse with non-diverse systems, and correct for other characteristics. Further, resilience is a complex concept that is not easy to measure. A resilient farming system shows robustness, adaptability and transformability. For each of these resilience capacities, different measures are needed for quantification. This session invites presentations that use empirical data to quantify the impacts of diversity on the resilience of agriculture. This should strengthen the knowledge base and improve our understanding on the relation between diversity and resilience.

2.4 Farm economy of cropping diversification

Heikki Lehtonen, Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), Finland

Farm level profitability is one of the pivotal elements in the development of diversified cropping systems. It is relevant to evaluate to what extent the costs may be covered by the benefits of diversification in the short and long run. Otherwise there is little economic incentive for farmers to diversify, especially when they are historically linked to specialised agri-food value chains.
Farmers and their close stakeholders need understanding how and why they might reach economic break-even – a situation where costs of diversification are covered by the monetary benefits. There is a need for studies showing concretely how cropping diversifications may or may not produce positive economic outcome or prove more profitable than less diversified cropping.
The purpose of this session is to introduce different approaches in studying farm level economic effects of cropping diversification while showing also results based on empirical material of the costs and benefits, e.g. profitability of diversified cropping compared to less diversified farming, or how diversification can be proven economically viable. It is recognised here that the mere economic profitability is often not the sole objective for farmers. Diversification may provide farmers utility gains, reduced risks, or avoided costs in the long run. Hence this session encourages papers showing clearly where the costs and benefits come from and if various benefits may outweigh the costs of diversification and provide improved avenues for farming.