Sustainable Crop Systems

Work Package 1.7 Sustainable Crop Systems

Sustainable crop production aims to produce food in sufficient quantities and quality, whilst sustaining a stable or improving environment and biodiversity. Intensive management of agricultural ecosystems has in many instances reduced biodiversity and damaged some ecosystem functions.

To develop sustainable arable land use systems, it is necessary to understand the factors that determine their social, environmental and economic impacts and their resilience. This means also understanding the underlying principles and key interactions and inter-relationships above and below ground that drive them.

The aim of the work package is to develop a more holistic, systems-level understanding of these complex linkages in Scottish arable land use systems.

Required outputs

  • Understand and define quantitatively the social, economic and environmental components that confer resilience on arable land use systems.
  • Understanding of how crop management practices may be developed and used to optimise the management of these components, particularly those, reducing or reversing adverse environmental impacts whilst maintaining economic sustainability.


Examples for progress towards the outputs in the sustainable crop systems work package include:

  • conducting a major study on farms from April 2007, supported by analysis of changes documented in the annual agricultural census and other surveys over the past 25 years
  • developing a general biological-physical framework to examine the flows of energy and carbon in fields
  • identifying varieties of main crop species that would bring, in themselves, environmental benefit or resilience to global change
  • testing concepts and methods on plot-scale experiments that would generate (within a field) a wider range of conditions than would normally be found in commercial agriculture

A full report of progress can be found below.