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Farm level environmental indicators; are they useful? An overview of Green Accounting Systems for European farms

Halberg, Niels; Verschuur, Gerwin and Goodlass, Gillian (2005) Farm level environmental indicators; are they useful? An overview of Green Accounting Systems for European farms. Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment (105), pp. 195-212.

[thumbnail of 2465.pdf] PDF - English

Document available online at: http://www.agrsci.dk/jpm/nha


Green accounts or Input-Output Accounting systems (IOA) have been developed in countries with intensive agricultural production to facilitate voluntary improvements in farm environmental performance. There is a need for an overview of indicators used and a review of results and experiences reported. Ten IOA systems covering the topics of the farm's use of nutrients, pesticides and energy were selected from a survey of 55 systems and compared in this paper. The approaches and indicators used vary from systems based on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) to accounts based systems that use physical input-output units. Many IOA systems use farm gate nutrient balances, pesticide use per ha and energy use per kg product. These indicators are easy to calculate but the resulting value needs separate interpretation for the farmer. Other systems include modelled emissions and rate the yearly farm results using closed scales, which allows for easy interpretation but builds on implicit normative assumptions of best practices. Participating farmers were most often reported to be motivated for the use of IOA but empirical evidence of improved environmental farm performance was scarce. IOA systems should be linked with production planning tools used by the advisory services. Farmers and advisors needs better reference values to evaluate the indicator levels (environmental performance) on the individual farm possibly based on analysis of a larger number of farms. The statistical properties of IOA indicators need to be researched regarding: (1) The relation between changed management practice and changes in indicator values on a given farm over a period of time. (2) The relative importance of systematic vs. coincidental differences in environmental performance of a set of farms. It is concluded that IOA systems could become effective tools for agri-environmental improvement of European farms given further development and standardisation.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:Green Account, Input Output Accounting, Farm Management, Indicators, Environmental Impact Assessment, Nutrient balance, Energy, Pesticides
Subjects: Farming Systems
Research affiliation: Denmark > AU - Aarhus University > AU, DJF - Faculty of Agricultural Sciences
Deposited By: Halberg, Director, PhD Niels
ID Code:2465
Deposited On:29 Mar 2004
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:29
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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