Submitted to: Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: September 15, 2006
Publication Date: December 1, 2008
Citation: Hendrickson, J.R., Hanson, J.D., Tanaka, D.L., Sassenrath, G.F. 2008. Principles of Integrated Agricultural Systems: Introduction to Processes and Definition. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. 23(4):265-271. Interpretive Summary: Integrated agricultural systems may provide a means to maintain food and fiber productivity while addressing economic, environmental and social concerns with conventional agricultural systems. This paper introduces the concept of dynamic-integrated agricultural production systems and provides definitions for other types of agricultural production systems. Dynamic-integrated agricultural systems were defined as having multiple enterprises managed in a dynamic manner that interact in space and time and these interactions result in a synergistic resource transfer among enterprises. We argue that dynamic-integrated agricultural production systems are more sustainable than conventional production systems because they are more adaptable to meet future challenges.
Technical Abstract: Agriculture has been very successful in addressing the food and fiber needs of today’s world population. However, there are increasing concerns about the economic, environmental and social costs of this success. Integrated agricultural systems may provide a means to address these concerns while increasing sustainability. This paper introduces the concept of dynamic-integrated agricultural systems and calls for the development of principles to use in developing and researching integrated agricultural systems. Integrated agricultural systems are defined as having multiple enterprises that interact in space and time, where the interactions result in a synergistic resource transfer among the enterprises. The key aspect in these systems is the synergistic interactions that occur. Dynamic-integrated agricultural systems were defined as having multiple enterprises managed in a dynamic manner that interact in space and time and these interactions result in a synergistic resource transfer among enterprises. The key difference between dynamic-integrated agricultural systems and integrated agricultural systems is in management philosophy. In an integrated agricultural system, management decisions, such as type and amount of commodities to produce, are predetermined but in a dynamic-integrated system, these decisions are not predetermined but rather made at the most opportune time using the best available knowledge. As agricultural systems move up in the hierarchy, their complexity, amount of management needed, and sustainability also increases. A key aspect in the sustainability is ability to adapt to future challenges. We argue that sustainable systems need built-in flexibility to achieve this goal.