Submitted to: Trade Journal Publication
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: September 6, 2003
Publication Date: September 6, 2006
Citation: Hatfield, J.L. 2006. Multifunctionality of agriculture and farming system design: perspectives from the United States. Bibliotecheca Fragmenta Agronomica. 11:43-52. Interpretive Summary: Farming systems are part of the agricultural landscape; however, performance of farming systems is generally viewed from the perspective of crop yield and profit rather than environmental or alternative use viewpoints. This overview of farming systems in the context of watershed and landscape scale studies provides a view of the linkage among production, economics, environment, and multiple land uses. Farming systems can be managed to optimize both production and environment; however, the management sequences must be based on basic principles of crop growth and water movement. The same principles can extend to the watershed scale. Understanding these dynamics provides producers and landowners with information to evaluate fields, farms and watersheds with different performance measures. This information can be applied to watershed projects being attempted throughout the world where the goal is to increase the diversity of the landscape and still maintain productivity.
Technical Abstract: Farming systems are linked across three scales within the agricultural landscape. At each of these scales there are four functional aspects: i) production; ii) economics; iii) environment; and iv) multiple or alternative uses that link scales and endpoints. These linkages are observed in watershed scale studies that encompass production and environmental quality with potential best management practices. Examples of case studies from central Iowa demonstrate that changes in farming systems can achieve both an economic and environmental optimum. Emerging tools will help in the integration of farming systems into watershed management. To increase agricultural production efficiency will require innovative methods of quantitatively describing the multifunctionality of agricultural systems and communication of these results to producers and landowners.