Europe will face increasing pressure on agricultural systems due to increasing global food demands, competing claims on land resources and decreasing possibilities to displace production outside Europe. At the same time, society asks for a transition to intensive agricultural systems that have minimal detrimental environmental effects.
Sustainable intensification (SI) does not imply a generic, single development pathway for all agricultural systems; it depends on the local and contextual agronomic, environmental and socio-economic conditions.
The objectives of VITAL are:
- Identify key conditions of agricultural land systems that allow systems to shift towards sustainable intensification states.
- Explore triggers and transition pathways towards sustainable intensification states.
- Develop and operationalise sustainability indicators that reflect a land use system’s position in a space of production intensity, ecological resilience and socio-economic viability, which together determine a region’s adaptive capacity towards sustainable intensification.
- Draw upon real-world, operational exemplars, to understand how conditions, triggers and pathways interact, and how they link to value chains and valorisation.
- Embed developments in sustainable intensification pathways in larger contexts (landscape, national, EU and global) to understand the potential of up- and out-scaling of regional best-practice examples.
- Public agencies and farmers’ organisations are crucial stakeholders for making Sustainable intensification (SI) happen.
- There is a need of formal structures of knowledge exchange. Advisory services are needed that support SI.
- Erosion, inefficient water use and suboptimal land use set a need for SI in 65% of Europe’s arable land.
- Socio-economic opportunities limit potential implementation of SI measures.
- High opportunities of SI exist in 34% of the EU’s arable land.
- The potential of consumer measures for improving value chain level sustainability outweighs the potential of agricultural structure and land based measures.
- A country-specific Knowledge sharing, Communication and Impact Maximization (KCIM) plan to reach the identified stakeholders within and beyond Europe.
- A life cycle assessment of the woody component, residual waste and co-products of integrated food and non-food production systems (IFNS).