Project: Viable InTensification of Agricultural production through sustainable Landscape transition

Acronym VITAL (Reference Number: 84)
Duration 01/05/2016 - 30/04/2019
Project Topic Europe will face increasing pressure on agricultural systems due to increasing global food demands, competing claims on land resources and decreasing possibilities to displace production outside Europe. Moreover, increasing societal demands for a wide range of ecosystem services and biodiversity protection call for transitions towards intensive agricultural systems that have minimal detrimental environmental effects. As a response to these major societal challenges, sustainable intensification (SI) is gaining attention. SI cannot be implemented through a generic, single development pathway for all agricultural systems. Alternative trajectories and actions to achieve SI depend on the local and contextual agronomic, environmental and socio-economic conditions. The project VITAL explores transition processes of European agricultural systems towards sustainably intensified production. VITAL identifies how differences in agricultural systems, their spatial frameworks and the role of actors, lead to, or inhibit, alternate transition processes of SI. The feasibility of different SI pathways is upscaled across Europe, hence moving beyond the level of individual farms and regions. Suitable spatial configurations of SI across land use systems are identified, accounting for the landscape and regional context. VITAL aims to: • Identify key conditions of agricultural land systems that allow systems to shift toward sustainable intensification states; and triggers and transition pathways towards such states. • Develop and operationalize sustainability indicators that reflect a land system’s position in a space of production intensity, ecological resilience and socio-economic viability, which together determine a region’s adaptive capacity towards sustainable intensification. • Draw upon real-world, operational exemplars, to understand how conditions, triggers and pathways interact, and how they link to value chains and valorisation. • Embed regional developments in sustainable intensification trajectories in larger contexts (national, EU and global) to understand the potential of up- and out-scaling of regional best-practice examples. By working with stakeholders at farm, regional and European level VITAL will deliver 1) an analytical framework that allows determining feasible future states of sustainable intensification; 2) assessment tools and indicators to evaluate alternative SI trajectories; 3) an assessment of the suitability of SI trajectories across different European land use systems and locations; 4) novel land system architectures based on SI; and 5) insights in the role of social networks of transition in adopting SI.
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Project partner

Number Name Role Country
1 VU University Amsterdam Coordinator Netherlands
2 National Institute of Agronomic Research Partner France
4 agrathaer GmbH Partner Germany
5 Leibniz-Zentrum für Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF) e.V Partner Germany