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«Measuring Agricultural Sustainability Chapter · September 2010 DOI: 10.1007/978-90-481-9513-8_2 CITATIONS READS 3 authors, including: Zahra Ranjbar ...»

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was in the shape of an equation:

–  –  –

Se = Efficiency of solar flux use Rs = Residence time of soil Rb = Residence time of biotic Each parameter has its own possible states ranging from two to three. For instance, the three possible states of Ei are listed as 0.1, 0.5 and 1.0. Ei is seen to be more sustainable at lower values.

The terms Rs and Rb are such that only two possible states exist, namely zero and one. In the zero state the farming category is unsustainable no matter what its other measures are. In the value state, the farming type is sustainable, but the degree of sustainability depends on the values of other parameters. In terms of agricultural


S = R s × R b / R s × R b f (v e )− f (vd )   where ve = f (Se, Pr) Vd = f (Ei, Er, Pe) Thus, any farming system type that contributes to physical erosion or a high rate of soil biomass loss will yield a value of zero and can be termed non sustainable.

A farming type that conserves these basic resources will demonstrate a positive value, and therefore be termed potentially sustainable.

Hayati and Karami (1996) suggested an operational index to measuring agricultural sustainability trend in farm level. The parameters measured in that method are those factors that intervene in the crop production process and could have positive effect in the process. The measurement is summarized in below


–  –  –

S = Trend of sustainability X1 = Average of crop production per hectare X2 = Execution of crop rotation X3 = Usage of organic manures X4 = Usage of green manures X5 = Usage of crop stubble X6 = Usage of conservational plough X7 = Trend of change in water resources (at the farm) X8 = Trend of change in soil resources (at the farm) Y1 = Amount of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides consumption in the farm in one cultivational season Y2 = Amount of nitrate fertilizer consumption per 1 t of crop production Y3 = Amount of phosphate fertilizer consumption per 1 t of crop production Measuring Agricultural Sustainability 95

–  –  –

In order to measure agricultural sustainability at the farm level, Saltiel et al.

(1994) presented an index which is constituted of seven components. They are:

cultivation of sustainable crops, conservational cultivation, crop rotation, diminishing of pesticides and herbicides usage, soil mulching, and use of organic fertilizers.

9 Conclusion

The main difficulty in measuring and monitoring agricultural sustainability is that it is a dynamic rather than static concept and needs high level of observation and skills that can adapt to change. Whereas most agricultural scholars believe that measuring sustainability at the farm level is the most precise method, policies at the higher levels (such as national) are increasingly affecting at the lower levels (such as farm). It is necessary to understand the interaction between all levels because each level finds its explanation of mechanism in the level below, and its significance in the levels above.

Moreover, the level of analysis chosen can be a significant influence on the diagnosis of sustainability. At the field level, particular soil management, grazing and cropping practices will be the most important determinants of sustainability. At the farm level, sustainable resource use practices need to support a sustainable farm business and family household. At the national level, there may be broader pressures on the use of agricultural land from non-farming sectors, and at the global level, climatic stability, international terms of trade and distribution of resources also become important determinants.

Although sustainability is a global concept and a farm is only a small subsystem that interacts in various ways with surrounding systems, indicators are needed to know whether a farm system is moving towards or away from sustainability.

Indicators can also be used to educate farmers and other stakeholders about sustainable production. Furthermore, indicators provide farmers with a tool to measure their achievements toward sustainability. Further, indicators allow for comparisons between farms’ performance in the economic, social and environmental aspects of their production. Indicators also inform policy makers about the current state and trends in farm performance or sector performance. Sustainability performance measures can be used as input for policy tools and stimulate better integration of decision-making. Finally, sustainability indices can encourage public participation in sustainability discussions.

96 D. Hayati et al.

While no measure of sustainability can be perfect, the sustainable value is a useful measure and describes the current sustainability performance. On the other hand, the ‘sustainable efficiency’ indicator can be used to compare and rank farms.

Besides, in view of the fact that biophysical and socioeconomic conditions of countries are different to each other, those indicators which are developed and used in one country may not applicable to other countries.

Some recommendations to selecting indicators in order to more appropriate

measuring of agricultural sustainability are:

– Necessity to adoption of a systemic approach – Establishment and gathering appropriate data base and other necessary information in shape of time series in developing countries – More emphasis on determining of sustainability trend instead of precision determining amount of sustainability, especially with respect to lack of accessing such data in developing countries – Launch of professional institutes to monitoring and measuring sustainability of agricultural and industrial systems – Develop those indicators which be feasible to implementing, meanwhile responsive and sensitive toward any stresses and manipulation on system


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