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GROWTH - 6 December 2019

Characteristics of the main agricultural systems

by Farm Europe

December 2019



The CAP reform project currently under discussion introduces a new “Ecoscheme”. This measure, financed by the first pillar of the CAP, aims to stimulate the transition to a more environmentally friendly and economically viable agriculture in Europe. In view of the diversity within European agriculture, to be effective this tool will have to be adapted to national or regional challenges.

To this end, it will have to ensure a strong common framework both for the concept to be promoted and for the objectives to be achieved.

Therefore, a preferred approach seems to be to conceive this Ecoscheme tool as an incentive for the transition to certain agricultural systems that bring explicit environmental benefits and integrate the need for an European agriculture that must return to a fairly blunt profitability.

Each agricultural system promotes a set of practices to achieve a specific objective, which distinguishes it from other systems.

By supporting the transition to environmentally friendly and economically viable farming systems, the Ecoscheme tool will provide concrete support for practices to be implemented. These practices can then be adapted according to local needs and constraints as soon as they provide at least directly or on an equivalent basis the benefits expected from all farmers as defined at European level.

A comparison of the economic and environmental performance of different systems will help to identify those most likely to participate in this transition. In this context, it is essential to understand the characteristics of agricultural systems, as well as the practices they support.

The systems studied in this document correspond to those recognized internationally. These are conventional agriculture, sustainable agriculture, agro-ecology, integrated agriculture, soil conservation agriculture, and organic agriculture. Digital agriculture, which includes a set of tools applicable in all systems, is not detailed in this section. It will be the subject of a specific analysis with regard to its horizontality.

This qualitative study makes it possible to understand the aims and practices implemented by agricultural systems. The strengths and weaknesses of the latter are also detailed. The practices listed for each system are based on a literature search. Except those mentioned in the specifications, they do not have to be applied simultaneously. The reasons that may hinder the implementation of the latter are then detailed, followed by the economic and environmental benefits they allow.


full study available on Farm Europe Members Area (in french)

Written by Farm Europe