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Input output accounting systems in the European community - an appraisal of their usefulness in raising awareness of environmental problems

Goodlass, G.; Halberg, N. and Verschuur, G. (2003) Input output accounting systems in the European community - an appraisal of their usefulness in raising awareness of environmental problems. European Journal of Agrnomy (20), pp. 17-24.

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Input Output Accountingsystems (IOAs) can be used to identify farming practices which are not ‘environmentally neutral’ and thus unlikely to be sustainable in the long term. In an EU sponsored project, European countries were surveyed and over 50 farm level IOAs identified. The subjects covered by the IOAs included nutrients, pesticides, energy, soil/habitat, conservation, wastes (e.g.packagingandtyres)and other items such as veterinary products. Nearly half the IOAs covered more than one subject and nutrient budgets were the most commonly included(91% of the IOAs studied). Looking at the 30 single subject systems, most (26)were nutrients with only three pesticide and one energy based system. In total 50 systems covered nutrients. Overall, where specified, nutrient budgets covered nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K)in 13 cases, N and P in 12 cases, N only in nine and P only in four cases. The most common indicators for nutrient budgets were calculation of a balance followed by nitrate leached. The method by which indicators were evaluated and presented to farmers varied. Farming sectors were not equally represented with systems for the arable, dairy and pig sectors the most common. Farmers received a detailed interpretation of their results in two thirds of the systems, most commonly related to official limits or targets. Most of the systems were developed to reduce adverse environmental impacts and 65%of the systems were considered by the respondents to have had a positive environmental impact by reducing surpluses or improving waste disposal. Use of five of the systems could lead to a marketing advantage via certified produce with a recognised quality label. Where factual evidence as to effectiveness was available, the benefits varied between subject types(nutrients, energyandpesticides) and between sectors. Farmers’ responses to the systems were generally positive and they appear to be a useful way of raising awareness of environmental problems. However, economic issues need to be considered, if the costs to the farmer outweigh the benefits, uptake will not be sustained. The type and nature of the interpretation is also important as the most successful IOAs interms of continued use and interest appeared to be those where there was regular technical input from an adviser. Overall IOAs could offer a useful tool for voluntary improvement in agri-environmental performance on topics that are not already strongly regulated. But more studies are needed to ensure that farmers in reality change their behaviour and to develop the use of reference values.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:Nutrient balances, Environment, Indicators, Europe, green account
Subjects: Environmental aspects
Research affiliation: Denmark > AU - Aarhus University > AU, DJF - Faculty of Agricultural Sciences
Deposited By: Hansen, Grethe
ID Code:15566
Deposited On:23 Mar 2009
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:39
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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