Towards the sustainable intensification of agriculture—a systems approach to policy formulation
School of Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK
The sustainable intensification of agriculture involves providing sufficient food and other ecosystem services without going beyond the limits of the earth’s system. Here a project management approach is suggested to help guide agricultural policy to deliver these objectives. The first step is to agree measurable outcomes, integrating formal policy goals with the often much less formal and much more diverse goals of individual farmers. The second step is to assess current performance. Ideally, this will involve the use of farm-scale metrics that can feed into process models that address social and environmental domains as well as production issues that can be benchmarked and upscaled to landscape and country. Some policy goals can be delivered by supporting ad hoc interventions, while others require the redesign of the farming system. A pipeline of research, knowledge and capacity building is needed to ensure the continuous increase in farm performance. System models can help prioritise policy interventions. Formal optimization of land use is only appropriate if the policy goals are clear, and the constraints understood. In practice, the best approach may depend on the scale of action that is required, and on the amount of resource and infrastructure available to generate, implement and manage policy.