Sustainability of agricultural and natural systems

Energy balance, CO2 emissions and use efficiency of primary production inputs


The concept of sustainability which has always been at the base of activity concerning the “farm network” has gradually been modified and has gained specific contents; this has meant deciding on the directions of  research, and is the origin of the lines of research which deal with systems analysis. Therefore there has been a decision to apply more universal indicators which would consent the comparison of different agricultural systems in terms of energy consumption and energy use efficiency, and of CO2 emissions.

Starting: 2.01.2005
Scheduled ending: 18.09.2019
Real ending: 18.09.2019


To define sustainability and use of production factors in numerical terms, so as to be able to compare agricultural systems from different contexts and to define their degree of sustainability.

To check the efficiency and effectiveness of transformation of production inputs as a measure of process sustainability.



Analysis of the sustainability of agricultural systems originated from the need for comparative analysis of agricultural management methods, to investigate the transferability of sustainability elements. It then became necessary to find a way of numerically defining sustainability and the use of production factors, so as to compare agricultural systems in different contexts and to define their degree of sustainability. Therefore, one way of having homogeneous units of measurement was to consider production factors and products in terms of energy, and to analyse primary production processes in terms of energy flows, in order to compare eco-compatible production systems which are similar, but not identical because they are connected, for example, to different areas (e.g. organic wheat farming in Tuscany and in Puglia, the subject of an MSc thesis in 2006).



This type of analysis is very topical and receives a lot of international attention. It is particularly relevant due to the challenges policy makers are facing in terms of climate change and the need to plan adaptation processes on a regional scale. 



  • Strengths

The research is in line with international research on various systems to measure sustainability at the regional level. The investigative methodology is based on data collected from a representative regional sample of real farms, and has already proved useful for providing information and overviews for rural development planning in Puglia Region (Knowledge System – RDP technical support for formulating the rural development programme). This research is interesting for different collaborative activities being created for PhD work.

  • Weaknesses

Need to obtain funding to ensure continuity in this research and the involvement of other researchers. 

Reference person/s: Calabrese Generosa Jenny /
Institutions involved:
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