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ARS Home » Plains Area » Mandan, North Dakota » Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #324924

Title: Exploring agricultural production systems and their fundamental components with system dynamics modeling

item WALTERS, JEFFREY - Universidad Diego Portales
item Archer, David
item SASSENRATH, GRETCHEN - Kansas State University
item Hendrickson, John
item HANSON, JON - Retired ARS Employee
item HALLORAN, JOHN - Retired ARS Employee
item Vadas, Peter
item ALARCON, VLADIMIR - Universidad Diego Portales

Submitted to: Ecological Modeling
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/19/2016
Publication Date: 5/4/2016
Publication URL:
Citation: Walters, J.P., Archer, D.W., Sassenrath, G.F., Hendrickson, J.R., Hanson, J.D., Halloran, J.M., Vadas, P.A., Alarcon, V.J. 2016. Exploring agricultural production systems and their fundamental components with system dynamics modeling. Ecological Modeling. 333:51-65.

Interpretive Summary: Agricultural production systems are composed of multiple components that interact in complex ways. A computer simulation model was developed to explore the interaction of these components on economic, environmental, and social sustainability of agricultural production. Model results showed that integrated crop and livestock systems had the greatest potential for sustainability. The model provides a tool to help understand how different aspects of agricultural production interact. The research is useful to researchers, farmers, and policy makers in designing agricultural production practices to be more sustainable.

Technical Abstract: Agricultural production in the United States is undergoing marked changes due to rapid shifts in consumer demands, input costs, and concerns for food safety and environmental impact. Agricultural production systems are comprised of multidimensional components and drivers that interact in complex ways to influence production sustainability. In a mixed-methods approach, we combine qualitative and quantitative data to develop and simulate a system dynamics model that explores the systemic interaction of these drivers on the economic, environmental and social sustainability of agricultural production. We then use this model to evaluate the role of each driver in determining the differences in sustainability between three distinct production systems: crops only, livestock only, and an integrated crops and livestock system. The result from these modelling efforts found that the greatest potential for sustainability existed with the crops only production system. While this study presents a stand-alone contribution to sector knowledge and practice, it encourages future research in this sector that employs similar systems-based methods to enable more sustainable practices and policies within agricultural production.