Methodology for assessing the environmental, economic and social characteristics of (organic and non-organic) farming systems

This Defra funded project aimed to describe the range of current UK farming systems, for example organic, low input, extensive, integrated, intensive, etc. and develop a methodology to characterise their distinctive environmental, economic and social characteristics.

The methodology was based on a life-cycle approach and considered inputs, products, outputs and impacts, which were characterised for the different farming systems. Indicators were chosen to represent those characteristics and combined to produce the methodology, which could subsequently be used to evaluate the productivity and sustainability of different farming systems.

The project began with a review of both published and un-published work to inform the description of a comprehensive range of farming systems. The team then identified the characteristics of those systems and developed methods that could be used to assess and quantify the impact of farming systems at appropriate scales. These methods were then validated using case studies.

Rob Lillywhite of the University of Warwick led the project, and Matt Reed and Paul Courtney provided the CCRI input. The project started in August 2009 and completed in July 2012.