Assessing the sustainability of wheat-based cropping systems using simulation modelling: sustainability = 42? uri icon


  • Concepts of agricultural sustainability and possible roles of simulation modelling for characterising sustainability were explored by conducting, and reflecting on, a sustainability assessment of rain-fed wheat-based systems in the Middle East and North Africa region. We designed a goal-oriented, model-based framework using the cropping systems model Agricultural Production Systems sIMulator (APSIM). For the assessment, valid (rather than true or false) sustainability goals and indicators were identified for the target system. System-specific vagueness was depicted in sustainability polygons-a system property derived from highly quantitative data-and denoted using descriptive quantifiers. Diagnostic evaluations of alternative tillage practices demonstrated the utility of the framework to quantify key bio-physical and chemical constraints to sustainability. Here, we argue that sustainability is a vague, emergent system property of often wicked complexity that arises out of more fundamental elements and processes. A 'wicked concept of sustainability' acknowledges the breadth of the human experience of sustainability, which cannot be internalised in a model. To achieve socially desirable sustainability goals, our model-based approach can inform reflective evaluation processes that connect with the needs and values of agricultural decision-makers. Hence, it can help to frame meaningful discussions, from which actions might emerge.

publication date

  • 2014
  • 2014

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