AESIS: a support tool for the evaluation of sustainability of agroecosystems. Example of applications to organic and integrated farming systems in Tuscany, Italy

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Gaio Cesare Pacini *
Giulio Lazzerini
Concetta Vazzana
(*) Corresponding Author:
Gaio Cesare Pacini | gaiocesare.pacini@unifi.it

Abstract

Agricultural researchers widely recognise the importance of sustainable agricultural production systems and the need to develop appropriate methods to measure sustainability on the farm level. Policy makers need accounting and evaluation tools to be able to assess the potential of sustainable production practices and to provide appropriate agro-environmental policy measures. Farmers are in search of sustainable management tools to cope with regulations and enhance efficiency. This paper presents the outcomes of applications to organic and integrated farming of an indicator-based framework to evaluate sustainability of farming systems (Agro-Environmental Sustainability Information System, AESIS). The AESIS was described together with a review of applications dating from 1991 in a previous paper. The objective of the present paper is to present the AESIS application to organic and integrated farming systems in Val d’Elsa (Tuscany) and discuss how it is adapted for application to ordinary farms. The AESIS is organised into a number of environmental and production systems. For each system, environmental critical points are identified with corresponding agro-environmental indicators and processing methods. Possible solutions to sustainability issues, and critical points of relevance to the agricultural sector of the local economic and agro-ecological zone, are formulated by including an experimental layout, identifying indicator thresholds and by defining management systems with corresponding policy measures. Alternative solutions are evaluated by calculating and measuring the relevant indicators. The outcomes of the AESIS applications are discussed with specific relevance to the operational adoptability of AESIS to ordinary, agri-touristic farms managed with the organic and the integrated production method, respectively. The AESIS framework proved to be sufficiently flexible to meet the requirements for ordinary farm applications while keeping a holistic perspective and considering pedo-climatic and production factors on different spatial scales.

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