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Robustness to import declines of three types of European farming systems assessed with a dynamic nitrogen flow model

Abstract : Contexte Agriculture in Western Europe is predominantly input-intensive (fertilisers, water, fuel, pesticides) and relies on feed imports. As a result, it is dependent on oil, which may start to decline in production in the 2020s, thus exposing the agricultural sector to potential economic stress, including increased input prices and decreased farmer purchase capacities. Therefore, it is necessary to assess the capacity of European farming systems (FS) to maintain production levels despite a decline in oil production (i.e., robustness). OBJECTIVE: We aimed to model and compare the time variations in the animal- and crop-sourced production of three French FS under three scenarios of decreased availability of feed and synthetic fertiliser imports. METHODS: We developed a FS-scale dynamic model that considers nitrogen flows between livestock, plant, and soil compartments. Plant production is a function of soil mineral nitrogen levels, and livestock numbers depend on feed availability. The three FS are characterised by different crop-grassland-livestock balances: (i) field crop (Plateau Picard), (ii) intensive monogastric (Bretagne Centrale), and (iii) extensive ruminant (Bocage Bour-bonnais). The three scenarios consist of different combinations of synthetic nitrogen fertilisers and feed import availability declines until 2050: a decrease in synthetic fertilisers only (Synth-), a decrease in feed imports (Feed-), and a decrease in both external inputs (Synth-Feed-). RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS The first two scenarios highlight the positive role of livestock effluents and permanent grasslands on the robustness of food production. In the Synth-Feed- scenario, the extensive ruminant FS exhibits robustness (no decline in food production) for 13 years, whereas the field crop FS exhibits robustness for 4 years. In contrast, the intensive monogastric FS shows decreased food production within the first year. The difference between the two crop-livestock FS can be explained by livestock density, herd composition but also plant cover composition. In the long term, all three FS show a decrease in food production between 45 and 60%. SIGNIFICANCE Our modelling work shed some light on the role of ruminants and permanent grasslands in making FS more robust to decreases in synthetic fertiliser and feed import availability, increasing the time without production decline after the beginning of the perturbation. For longer-time resilience, configurational changes are still necessary, however a greater robustness gives more time to implement them, therefore facilitating adaptation and transformation. Our model paves the way to the study of resilience of FS from the point of view of their crop-grassland-livestock configuration and their dependence on external inputs.
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Contributor : Florence Barré <>
Submitted on : Thursday, July 15, 2021 - 11:52:51 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, September 7, 2021 - 3:44:09 PM


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Corentin Pinsard, Sophie Martin, François Léger, Francesco Accatino. Robustness to import declines of three types of European farming systems assessed with a dynamic nitrogen flow model. Agricultural Systems, Elsevier Masson, 2021, 193, ⟨10.1016/j.agsy.2021.103215⟩. ⟨hal-03286683⟩



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