10:00 AM - 10:15 AM
[MIS03-05] Developing a Sustainable Agriculture Matrix on National Scales
Keywords:Agriculture, Sustainable Development Goals, Nitrogen, Land use
To measure progress and to enable accountability of commitments, we initiated an interdisciplinary effort to develop an independent and transparent Sustainable Agriculture Matrix (SAM) that can be applied at national scales. First proposed by M. S. Swaminathan for agricultural research and policy in 1990, SAM is a collection of quantifiable indicators from environmental, social, and economic dimensions, selected according to the concepts of sustainability, data availability and quality, and the potential to evaluate trade-offs. For example, intensification of agricultural may spare land from deforestation, but may result in more water consumption, increased nitrogen pollution, and shifting from subsistence to cash crops.
Sustainability is commonly evaluated on farm-plot or regional scales, but locally sustainable practices may not improve environmental, social, and economic performances on a national scale, given the complex responses of markets, governments, and consumers. For example, management for higher yield and nitrogen use efficiency in an oil palm plantation may have unintended effects by creating incentives to replace other crops or to expand agriculture through new deforestation. Therefore, SAM must be calculated at a national scale, and it must also evaluate the role of international trade so that optimal solutions for sustainable agriculture on multiple scales can be assessed.
As a first step towards developing SAM, we developed the agricultural Sustainable Nitrogen Management Index (SNMI), based on data for two important efficiency terms in crop production, namely Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) and land use efficiency (crop yield). NUE is positively related to the environmental performance of agricultural production by reducing nitrogen pollution, while crop yield is associated with the socio-economic performance of agricultural production and food security. SNMI calculates geometrically where a country’s current position is along normalized NUE and yield indices and the distance from a reference goal in a two-dimensional graphic. Those countries with both high yield and high NUE (low pollution) are ranked highest. SNMI score provides a useful metric for each country to track its own trajectory of progress toward the dual goals of increasing land use efficiency and nutrient use efficiency.
Much work is needed to comprehensively assess agricultural sustainability. Most importantly, we must go beyond biophysical indicators to include social dimensions in SAM, such as social welfare, equity, and systemic risk. These topics will be the focus of an upcoming interdisciplinary workshop supported by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center in Annapolis, Maryland, USA. With contributions of social scientists and economists, we seek to enrich databases and understanding of the social and economic performances of agriculture on national scales using SAM, analyze the connections among the environmental, social, and economic dimensions of sustainable agriculture, and explore solutions for optimizing agricultural performance in all three dimensions.