Socio-ecological factors determine crop performance in agricultural systems

Libère Nkurunziza*, CA Watson, Ingrid Öborn, Henrik G Smith, Göran Bergkvist, Jan Bengtsson

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Agricultural production systems are affected by complex interactions between social and ecological factors, which are often hard to integrate in a common analytical framework. We evaluated differences in crop production among farms by integrating components of several related research disciplines in a single socio-ecological analysis. Specifically, we evaluated spring barley (Hordeum vulgare, L.) performance on 34 farms (organic and conventional) in two agro-ecological zones to unravel the importance of ecological, crop and management factors in the performance of a standard crop. We used Projections to Latent Structures (PLS), a simple but robust analytical tool widely utilized in research disciplines dealing with complex systems (e.g. social sciences and chemometrics), but infrequently in agricultural sciences. We show that barley performance on organic farms was affected by previous management, landscape structure, and soil quality, in contrast to conventional farms where external inputs were the main factors affecting biomass and grain yield. This indicates that more complex management strategies are required in organic than in conventional farming systems. We conclude that the PLS method combining socio-ecological and biophysical factors provides improved understanding of the various interacting factors determining crop performance and can help identify where improvements in the agricultural system are most likely to be effective
Original languageEnglish
Article number4232
JournalScientific Reports
Volume10
Early online date6 Mar 2020
DOIs
Publication statusFirst published - 6 Mar 2020

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