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Napel, J. ten, F. Bianchi and M.W.P. Bestman. 2006. Utilising intrinsic robustness in agricultural production systems. TransForum Working Papers. , p. 32-53.

Number of pages: 22

Type of document: Journal Article

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More information on authors/freelancers connected to LBI :
Monique W. P. Bestman MSc.


Language of document: English

Title in English: Utilising intrinsic robustness in agricultural production systems

Abstract / summary in English:

This paper explores the potential of utilising robust crops and livestock for improving sustainability of agriculture. Two approaches for dealing with unwanted fluctuations that may influence agricultural production, such as diseases and pests, are discussed. The prevailing approach, which we call the ‘Control Model’, is to protect crops and livestock from disturbances as much as possible, to regain balance with monitoring and intervention and to look for add-on solutions only. There are a number of problems associated with the Control Model, including reduced animal welfare, environmental pollution and low public support. An alternative approach, which we call the ‘Adaptation Model’, is based on reducing the consequences of disturbances rather than taking disturbances out. Robust Design may be a promising methodology to utilise robust components and design the production process for minimal variation. For crops and livestock this means utilising and supporting their intrinsic ability to deal with disturbances by adaptation. Four main areas of research required for adopting the Adaptation Model were identified. Firstly, it is necessary to raise the awareness of the two approaches with all parties involved to stimulate innovation. Secondly, the methodology for robust design within and across animal and crop production systems needs further development. Thirdly, there are still many unanswered questions regarding optimal utilisation of biological robustness mechanisms, which requires technical research. Fourthly, as diversity of production systems increases, dissemination of knowledge will have to change from dissemination of solutions to dissemination of methods to identify the best solution for a specific context.