Resilience of and flexibility in agricultural production systems

    Project Details


    Main research question/goal
    The aim of this project is to make the theoretical concepts of ‘resilience’ and 'flexibility' of agricultural systems more tangible by identifying operational indicators, phenomena and strategies that have a clear impact on resilience. The intention is to develop methods to introduce resilience in farm management and to derive recommendations for research, education and policy. Resilience is the ability of a system to continue its functions under a sudden shock or prolonged stress from the environment. This includes not only the ability to shield against this shock or stress (classical shock resistance), but also the capacity to adapt smoothly to changing circumstances with no major problems. A farm system is part of a larger social-ecological system that is constantly changing at the biophysical, economic and institutional levels. Hence the need - in addition to classic aspects of farm management such as biological control, technological optimisation and efficiency - for systemic resilience. Until now, research concerning resilience and flexibility in the agricultural sector has largely remained theoretical and conceptual. With this project, we aim to fill this gap by studying resilience and flexibility with the intention to develop practical implications.

    Research approach
    Through in-depth interviews, we identify issues that affect the resilience and flexibility of the system in a qualitative manner. In addition, we start from the known theoretical and conceptual knowledge and translate it into practice. We distinguish between the ability to adapt  smoothly to changes from in the input side (input flexibility), from the output side (output flexibility), from the production technology side (production flexibility), and others. We also focus on the plasticity in agricultural systems, being the capacity of the biological material (plants and animals) to function in a production system that is managed in a flexible manner.

    The resilience of farming systems today requires more research attention because the environmental conditions surrounding the farm are changing more dramatically than they used to (e.g. climate change, more trade, less use of protective inputs, etc.) and because the government(s) use less market-protection instruments. This project results in scientific publications about factors that have an impact on the resilience of farms, and the operationalisation of the concept of resilience. In addition, we expect to formulate recommendations for research, education, government and management about which measures could stimulate agricultural systems towards more resilience.
    Effective start/end date1/09/131/01/17