Diego Ferraro Project

Development of a model to assess the sustainability of current farm management practices in the Argentinean agroecosystems

Diego O. Ferraro. PhD student. University of Buenos Aires, Argentina (2005)

1. Background and Research context:

My research interest concerns the use of ecological principles as a framework for sustainable agroecosystem development. I am interested on elucidate the influence of farm management, landscape structure and soil condition in agroecosystem sustainability. Fuzzy logic provides the methodological and conceptual framework for developing a set of sustainability indicators. The core of this project is linked with my PhD project: “Effects of agricultural disturbance on biodiversity: comparison between agrochemicals, tillage, and harvest of aboveground net primary production”

2. Aim of the project

The main goal of this project is to generate a knowledge-based structure using ecological principles for farm- and landscape-level analyses of agricultural sustainability in Argentina. The knowledge-base engine NetWeaver will provide the adequate framework for knowledge representation. Sustainability criteria will be assessed with fuzzy logic in order to integrate different types of information and formalize conclusions.

3. Model structure

Both expert knowledge and scientific data will be combined to assess agroecosystem sustainability in a field-level model that considers: 1) tillage impact, 2) soil carbon balance, 3) soil erodability, and 4) human harvest of net primary productivity. In addition, the model will be integrated into ArcView GIS to incorporate soil, climatic and management variability at regional level. This work proposes a fuzzy rule-based model to describe the complex relationships among farm management (tillage, crop rotation, expected corn yield, harvest index) and environmental variability (temperature, precipitation, soil condition)

4. Expected results

The following results are expected to be achieved by this project:

  1. Development of a knowledge-based system using ecological principles for agricultural sustainability assessment
  2. To facilitate the sustainability assessment by farmers and land managers through the development of an easy and clear model user-interface.
  3. To incorporate the effects of climatic variability and farm management on soil carbon balance and therefore on soil erosion risk.
  4. To integrate the developed expert system into ArcView GIS in order to implement a regional assessment model of agroecosystem sustainability.
  5. To establish scientific knowledge base for policy formulation and decision making toward sustainable development.