Model-based design and analysis of integrated and organic arable farming systems

Research of the Farming Systems Ecology Group aims to provide scientific support for continuous and sustainable development of agro-ecosystems with special reference to organic agriculture and reduced use of external inputs in both the Netherlands and abroad. This is one of our research topics.


To develop and implement a standardized way of designing arable production systems and evaluate their performance with respect to farm-economic and environmental objectives, based on interactive multiple goal linear programming. To illustrate the methodology case studies are selected; ecological arable rotations in flevoland and integrated flowerbulb-based rotations on sandy soils in the province North-Holland.


  • Wageningen University: M.K. van Ittersum, P.A. Leffelaar (Plant Production Systems), E.M.T. Hendrix (Mathematics)
  • Plant Research International: P.A.C.M. van de Sanden, F.K. van Evert
  • Experimental Stations: R. Stokkers, F.G. Wijnands, J. Smid (PAV, Lelystad), J.E. Jansma, A. Krikke (LBO, Lisse)
  • Agricultural Colleges: R.G. Mauritz (CAH, Dronten), P. van Schaick Zillesen (Van Hall Institute, Leeuwarden)


Sustainable agricultural land use requires production systems which, in addition to economic objectives, allow for objectives in areas of environment, public health, rural scenery and nature. Since these objectives are at least partially conflicting, development of sustainable farming systems is equivalent with searching for coherent sets of production techniques which result in acceptable compromises between objectives. During the last decade, model-based exploration has emerged as a promising approach in interactive agricultural research on sustainable production systems in western Europe. Three phases can be distinguished in development of sustainable farming systems that are carried out iteratively: diagnosis, design, and testing & improving. Aim of this project is to develop and test tools to support such learning cycles.
In previous studies, a coherent methodology has been elaborated based on Interactive Multiple Goal Linear Programming. In this project, the methodology is further developed based on the experiences gained. Focus is on increasing the level of interactivity with the target audience in the phases of systems design and systems dissemination. An important component is therefore close collaboration with experimental stations. The range of systems to be evaluated will be enlarged by expanding the current database of crop management systems with ecological systems in which no use is made of pesticides or chemical fertilizers. The project is linked to the DLO Programme Ecological Agriculture (DLO-342), as part of the working group on model-based explorations.


  • Rossing, W.A.H., J.E. Jansma, F.J. de Ruijter & J. Schans, 1997. Operationalizing sustainability: exploring options for environmentally friendly flower bulb production systems. Eur. Journal of Plant Pathology 103:217-234.
  • Rossing, W.A.H., J.M. Meynard & M.K. van Ittersum, 1997. Model-based explorations to support development of sustainable farming systems: case studies from France and the Netherlands. Eur. J. of Agronomy 7:271-283.
  • Rossing, W.A.H., M.K. van Ittersum, H.F.M. ten Berge & C. Leeuwis, 1999. Designing land use options and policies. Fostering cooperation between Kasparov and Deep Blue? In: C. Leeuwis (ed.). Integral design: innovation in agriculture and resource management. Mansholt Studies Series, no. 15, Mansholt Institute / Backhuys Publishers. Wageningen University, pp 49-72.
  • Ten Berge, H.F.M., M.K. van Ittersum, G.W.J. van de Ven, W.A.H. Rossing & J. Schans, 1999. Farming options for the Netherlands explored by multi-objective modelling. Accepted by European Journal of Agronomy.

Project: PE Subthema 43 (96j) (1996-1999)