Submitted to: Review Article
Publication Type: Review article
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/6/2006
Publication Date: 7/1/2006
Citation: Liebig, M.A. 2006. Review of 'Agricultural Sustainability: Strategies for Assessment' by G.W. vanLoon et al. Review Article. Crop Sci. 46(4):1839. Interpretive Summary:
Technical Abstract: Challenges associated with achieving agricultural sustainability are immense. Germane to these challenges is the development of acceptable methods for assessing agricultural sustainability on individual farms. With this as a context, Gary vanLoon et al. developed a comprehensive approach to assess agricultural sustainability at the local, or micro-region, level. The product of their efforts is the subject of a book entitled ‘Agricultural Sustainability: Strategies for Assessment’. The book is organized into four chapters. Chapter 1 provides a basis for sustainability assessments, with a brief discussion on the meanings of sustainability and sustainable development, as well as an overview of the ‘sustainability tripod’ (environmental, economic, and social) in relation to agricultural systems. Levels of sustainability assessments are also reviewed in the first chapter as are basic concepts of ecology as they apply to assessing agricultural systems. Chapter 2 reviews general indicator theory in detail, with significant emphasis on indicator properties and methods for development, selection, quantification, and aggregation. The main thrust of the book is in Chapter 3, where the six categories recommended for sustainability assessments (productivity, stability, efficiency, durability, compatibility, and equity) are thoroughly described. Within each category, representative indicators are suggested and approaches to calculate and/or score each indicator are provided. Chapter 4 reviews seven studies where agricultural sustainability was assessed under different conditions throughout the world, and concludes with suggestions on methods to extend sustainability assessments to larger geographical scales.