Transforming apple production to one with high yield and economic benefit but low environmental impact by improving P-use efficiency is an essential objective in China. However, the potential for multi-objective improvement for smallholders and the corresponding implications for horticultural practices are not fully appreciated. Survey data collected from 99 apple producers in Quzhou County of Bohai Bay Region were analyzed by the Pareto-based multi-objective optimization method to determine the potential of multi-objective improvement in apple production. With current practices, apple yield was 45 t ha−1
, and the economic benefit was nearly 83,000 CNY ha−1
but with as much as 344 kg P ha−1
input mainly from chemical fertilizer and manure. P gray water footprint was up to 27,200 m3
due to low P-use efficiency. However, Pareto-optimized production, yield, and economic benefit could be improved by 38% and 111%, respectively. With a concurrent improvement in P-use efficiency, P gray water footprint was reduced by 29%. Multi-objective optimization was achieved with integrated horticultural practices. The study indicated that multi-objective optimization could be achieved at a smallholder scale with realistic changes in integrated horticultural practices. These findings serve to improve the understanding of multi-objective optimization for smallholders, identify possible constraints, and contribute to the development of strategies for sustainable apple production.
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