Submitted to: Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/13/2007
Publication Date: 12/1/2008
Citation: Hendrickson, J.R., Sassenrath, G.F., Archer, D.W., Hanson, J.D., Halloran, J.M. 2008. Interactions in Integrated Agricultural Systems: The Past, Present and Future. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. 23(4):314-324. Interpretive Summary: During the 20th century, American agriculture underwent dramatic changes which were driven by interactions between social/political, economic, environmental and technological factors. We compared how these four factors have interacted to influence agriculture in the past and how potential interactions may shape future systems. We concluded that the highly specialized systems such as commodity crop production and supply chain livestock production are vulnerable to future changes and that developing increased flexibility in agricultural systems is a key factor in dealing with future uncertainty. We suggest that dynamic-integrated agricultural practices are the best approach to increase flexibility and achieve this goal.
Technical Abstract: During the 20th century, American agriculture underwent dramatic changes. At the beginning, farms were more diverse, dependent on animal traction, on-farm inputs and income, and after initial land grants nearly independent of government policy. Subsequently, social/political, economic, environmental, and technological drivers have changed dramatically. Previous papers have examined specific effects of these drivers. Our objective is to examine how these drivers interact and influence today’s agricultural systems. We developed four categories [(1) Commodity Crop Production, (2) Supply Chain Livestock Production, (3) Organic Production, and (4) Extensive Livestock Production] to describe current agricultural systems. Although it is not possible to predict the future, interactions among the various drivers will affect these systems differently. By examining multiple scenarios, we conclude the highly specialized systems (Nos. 1 and 2) are highly vulnerable to future changes, and that developing adaptive capacity is critical for dealing with new uncertainty. Sustainable agricultural systems will need balance among various domains to be able to adapt and survive. We suggest that adopting dynamic-integrated agricultural practices is the best method to achieve this goal.