Special Issue "Contemporary Challenges to the Sustainable Development of Agriculture and Rural Areas"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Agriculture".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 September 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Anna Nowak
Guest Editor
Department of Economics and Agribusiness, University of Life Sciences, Akademicka 13, 20-950 Lublin, Poland
Interests: agricultural economics; agricultural competitiveness; farm competitiveness; bioeconomy; regional development; sustainable agriculture; agricultural and food trade
Prof. Dr. Armand Kasztelan
Guest Editor
Department of Economics and Agribusiness, University of Life Sciences, Akademicka 13, 20-950 Lublin, Poland
Interests: green growth; green economy; sustainable development; green agriculture; green competitiveness; regional development; bioeconomy; circular economy

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues, 

The increasing rate of social and economic growth and the simultaneous progressing degradation of the natural environment lead to the accumulation of negative effects and disturbances in developing the process of satisfying multiple essential human needs. The aggravated harmfulness of these conditions creates an objective need for seeking effective, interdisciplinary solutions ensuring sustainable development in every area of individual and group human activity. The concept of sustainable development takes on special significance with reference to agriculture and rural areas, as the need for considering the priority of the natural environment in implementing strategic development objectives is especially important for those forms of activity where the results depend on nature.

The food-providing function of agriculture since its origins has given it a strategic place among other sectors of economy. Its social function is equally important, and in the face of escalating environmental problems the function connected with reducing external costs and producing environmental public goods has become complementary. The expectations towards agriculture are affected by the situation of global food markets. Changes to the economic map of the world, as well as not yet fully recognized new socio-economic phenomena (including economic downturns), have substantially affected the conditions of development in various parts of the world and economic sectors, including the agriculture sector. In light of these phenomena, agriculture, rural areas, and regional development are still growing in importance and currency.

This Issue welcomes papers related to existing and potential challenges regarding agriculture, considering spatial differences in its development, as well as measures taken under global, national, and sectoral policies. The Issue particularly encourages a multidisciplinary approach to problems and challenges related to agriculture, its role, sources of growth, and relations with global phenomena, including climate change. The Issue aims to combine research concerning challenges to the development of agriculture with challenges related to regional development. The area of interest of this issue comprises challenges related to sources of growth in agriculture, changes in the role of the agri-food sector, mechanisms for overcoming structural barriers to the development of agriculture and rural areas, building competitive advantages, convergence processes in agriculture, implementing the concept of sustainable development and green growth, investigating the role and effects of innovation in agriculture, as well as determining the role of farms towards climatic challenges.

This Special Issue also aims to make a contribution to a political debate on supporting the development of agriculture at the local, regional, and global levels, in order to meet the challenges facing this sector. It is meant for decision-makers dealing with agricultural, structural, and regional policy.

The Special Issue will include, but not be limited to, the following topics:

  • Economics of agricultural resources;
  • Sustainability of the agriculture sector;
  • Competitiveness and innovativeness of the agri-food system;
  • The role of the agriculture sector in regional and rural development;
  • Circular economy and bioeconomy in the agriculture sector.

Prof. Dr. Anna Nowak
Prof. Dr. Armand Kasztelan
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1900 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • sustainable agriculture
  • agricultural economics
  • regional development
  • rural development
  • bioeconomy
  • circular economy
  • agricultural innovation
  • competitiveness
  • economic efficiency and eco-efficiency

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission, see below for planned papers.

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: Challenges and Opportunities of Ecofarming Development in Poland: an Analysis from Temporal, Spatial and Local Perspectives
Authors: Elżbieta Antczak
Affiliation: Department of Spatial Econometrics Faculty of Economics and Sociology University of Lodz, Poland
Abstract: Given the problems caused by conventional agriculture it is now time to seriously consider the implementation of more sustainable agricultural practices. Organic farming is one of the most known sustainable models of agricultural production. However, despite the generally positive outlook, the organic movement faces several hurdles including ecological justice, animal welfare, fair trade, productivity limitations, regional adaptation and global harmonisation for standard. The paper analyses the perspectives of organic farming development in Polish LAU-2 in years 2008-2020. The ecoagriculture was defined by a synthetic measure, described by 30 sub measurements of ecological crop cultivation, animal maintenance and eco-production. The occurrence of spatial interactions was also examined. Data was obtained from the Main Inspectorate of Trade Quality of Agricultural and Food Products and Central Statistical Office.

Title: Revitalization Education in Problem Areas as a Tool for the Implementation of Social Welfare
Authors: Beata Skubiak
Affiliation: Faculty of Economics, Finance and Management University of Szczecin Szczecin, Poland
Abstract: Well-being plays an important role in the economic, social and mental functioning of a person. The interdisciplinary nature of this issue therefore goes beyond the problems of psychology itself, also touching on important contemporary issues in the field of other social sciences. In the article, the author points out that achieving social well-being in problem areas requires social and economic activation, which is conditioned by a change in the attitudes and behavior of its inhabitants. For this reason, the aim of the article is an attempt to propose solutions in the field of revitalization in the social sphere based on the latest research in neurosciences, aimed at social inclusion of disadvantaged groups from problem areas, which include rural areas. Revitalization education, according to the author, is defined as all processes and interactions aimed at changing the attitudes and behavior of people, in particular children and adolescents, which should contribute to the integration and inclusion of people at risk of social exclusion, and thus improving their well-being. Revitalization education should be directed to people who are caught up in a negative loop of social patterns. Since their fate is shaped by the influence of parents and teachers, the activities of reconstructing life patterns towards pro-development skills and competences should be directed also at them. In this way, the social challenges and social problems of marginalized areas will be solved in a holistic and systemic way, with a focus on long-term effects that will translate into mental, existential and educational changes and, in the longer term, will contribute to the socio-economic development of the rural areas. In order to achieve the formulated goal, the article discusses: 1. social problems of marginalized areas, 2. the impact of neuroscience on economic decisions made, 3. recommendations were formulated for educational activities that should be undertaken as part of revitalization education. The use of neuroscience research in economics is a new and good direction of using research in order to use the potential of Human Resources (HR) more effectively, and they themselves (HR and neuroscience) have become interdisciplinary sciences in which specialists from various fields work together to study the complex organ of the brain.

Title: Proposed changes in the consumption structure of Polish agricultural products for 2030 based on data from 2008-2018
Authors: Anna Kuczuk; Katarzyna Widera
Affiliation: 1. Poland, Opole University of Technology, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Department of Thermal Engineering and Industrial Facilities 2. Poland, Opole University of Technology, Faculty of Economics and Management, Department of Economics, Finance, Regional and International Research
Abstract: The aim of the article is to present possible scenarios of changes in the consumption of Polish agricultural products in 2030. This change may be the result of increased consumer awareness of the transition to more sustainable consumption. The base year was built on the basis of data for 2008-2018, using elements of descriptive statistics. It became the starting point for the presented analysis. The proposed scenarios took into account both the supply side of consumer products of Polish agriculture and the demand for them. The presented study was based on data from FAOSTAT and Statistics Poland. The use of statistical tools adequate for the time series can be the starting point for further analyzes.

Title: The evaluation of the international competitive position of the agri-food sector in the EU countries based on a synthetic index
Authors: Armand Kasztelan; Aneta Jarosz-Angowska; Elżbieta Kołodziej
Affiliation: Department of Economics and Agribusiness, University of Life Sciences, Lublin, Poland
Abstract: The article attempts to construct a synthetic measure for assessing the competitive position of the agri-food sector. Based on a set of multi-criteria indicators and taxonomic methods, an aggregated index will be developed that will allow for the assessment and categorization of the EU countries in terms of the studied phenomenon. This paper attempts to answer the following questions: How competitive are the agri-food sectors in individual countries? What are the basic factors and barriers in achieving the competitiveness?

Title: The environmental and climate challenges to agriculture in Poland – the context of new European Green Deal strategy
Authors: Konrad PRandecki; Wioletta Wrzaszcz; Marek Zieliński
Affiliation: Institute of Agricultural and Food Economics National Research Institute
Abstract: The European Green Deal Strategy, introduced in 2019, involves a number of challenges for European agriculture. These challenges are broadly linked to need for agriculture to undertake a greater degree of protection environment and climate, which will require changes in agricultural practices and currently observed industrialisation processes of agriculture destabilising ecosystems and climate. In view of the diversity of agriculture and its pressures on the environment, it is important to identify the challenges faced by Member States. The aim of the paper is to identify the main environmental and climate challenges that agriculture in Poland will have to face due to the current Strategy of the European Green Deal, taking into account the organisational changes in this sector so far and the existing forms of nature protection in rural areas. The paper is based on empirical data from the Farm Structure Survey conducted by the Statistics Poland in 2005 and 2016, data on greenhouse gas emissions of agricultural origin established by the National Centre for Emissions Management (KOBiZE), data of the General Directorate for Environmental Protection concerning delimitation of the Natura 2000 areas in Poland, data of the Institute of Soil Science and Plant Cultivation-State Research Institute and the Institute of Agricultural and Food Economics-National Research Institute in the area of three national variants of High Nature Value Farmland area delimitated for the needs of the European Commission, as well as data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development regarding on delimitation of the less favoured areas with high natural value . In addition, a literature review was conducted indicating the links between agriculture, the environment and climate. The results of the study will illustrate the state of Polish agriculture and the changes taking place in this sector in the context of environmental and climate challenges, as well as identify the most difficult areas that in the future will require practical solutions to implement the European Green Deal strategy in Poland. The findings of the study will provide an important basis for policy makers in terms of effective support of agriculture and for the scientific community in the areas of agricultural research, which should be particularly developed in order to be able to establish the adaptation of the agricultural sector to new challenges.

Title: Characteristics of models of farms in the European Union
Authors: Hanna Klikocka; Aneta Zakrzewska; Piotr Chojnacki
Affiliation: Department of Economics and Management, University of Life Science in Lublin, Akademicka 15, 20-950 Lublin, Poland
Abstract: The article describes and sets a definition of different farm models under the categories of being family, small, and large scale commercial. Determination was based on the structure of the workforce and relationships between agricultural income to minimum wages. Family farms were dominated by the farming family providing the labour and the income per capita exceeded the net minimum wage in the country. The larger commercial farms are characterized by having a predominance of hired labour. Other farms where the full time income of those engaged in farm work was lower than the minimum wage were classified as small farms. Based on the studies carried out, it was found that in the EU-28 in 2016 there were 10 467 thousand farms (EU-13 -57.3%, EU-15 – 42.7%). They carried out agricultural activities on an area of 173 338 thousand ha (EU-13 – 28.5%, EU-15 – 71.5%). The EU-28 produced an output standard (SO) of thousand EUR 364 118 827 (EU-13 - 17.2% and EU-15 82.8%). After the delimitation, it was shown that small farming (70.8%) is the dominant form of management in the European Union. (EU-13 88.2% and EU-15 - 79.8%) and family farming (18.4%) (EU-13 10.5% and EU-15 - 29%). These types of farms in most EU countries involve the largest share of land resources - small farms (35.6%) and family farms (38.6 %) (UAA) of farms). However, there is a group of countries (Netherlands, Denmark, Czech Republic, Slovakia) in which large-scale actors play an important role due to their large share of land resources. In general, large farms generate the highest standard production (SO) (39.8%) compared to small and family farms in EU countries. Smal farms, although in many countries outnumbered, are of little economic importance due to their small share of land resources and, above all, their low participation in the production of domestic agricultural production (23.4 of standard output).

Title: Lignite mining vs. sustainable development of rural areas. How do spatial conflicts shape the attitudes of local communities?
Authors: Anna Bernaciak; Wojciech Kisiała; Katarzyna Suszyńska; Natalia Szopińska
Affiliation: Institute of Management, Poznan University of Economics and Business, Poznan, Poland
Abstract: Despite the changing economic conditions and paradigms in the field of electricity and heat supply, some European countries still base their energy sectors on non-renewable energy sources. Their exploitation and processing significantly interfere with the environment, transforming the landscape and changing the structure of the local economy. Being largely dependent on non-renewable energy sources affects the transformation of the landscape and the shape of the earth's surface, reinforcing changes in lithological, hydrological and soil conditions, which may limit the values of bio- and geodiversity. At the same time, activities in this area constitute a significant source of income for local governments and individual residents’ income (lease or sale of land). They may also contribute to the creation of jobs in emerging enterprises or modify the profile of the local economies. One of this type of resource is lignite, the mining of which using the opencast method particularly intensively affects the environment and the quality of life in the surrounding area. In the literature on the subject, the prevailing view is that social conflicts around the development and exploitation of mineral deposits, including lignite, especially in rural areas, are becoming more and more intense, take more and more radical forms and are also based on strong emotions. This study is a voice in the discussion about the social attitudes towards such activities and their conflictogenic potential. Its purpose was to identify the fears and expectations of the local community towards lignite mining plans, and to identify potential areas of spatial conflicts. Cartographic material was analyzed with the use of GIS techniques. Based on the spatial relationships between the thematic layers containing the areas with lignite deposits and land use forms, the relationships invisible in raw data sets could be identified. The research material was obtained in 2019 through a survey of the inhabitants of southern Wielkopolska (Western Poland) communes, where prognostic deposits of lignite had been identified and their exploitation was under consideration. The data obtained was subjected to statistical analysis, which included a one-way analysis of variance to verify the factors influencing the identified attitudes. The results of the study showed that the inhabitants of the analyzed communes took indecisive attitudes, yet with a very clear tendency towards negative assessments of the subject issue. Farmers and rural residents were the most skeptical, while entrepreneurs, town dwellers and young people had the most conciliatory attitudes. Moreover, it was proved that professional status, place of residence (town-village) and age affected these attitudes. The results of spatial analyzes also indicated numerous conflicts in terms of forms and ways of land use, including mainly the opencast vs. buildings and outcrop vs. agricultural land.

Title: Resilient food supply chains from the perspective of risk integration in the field of sustainable development and climate change. Example of private label producers
Authors: Urszula Motowidlak
Affiliation: Department of Logistics and Innovations, Faculty of Economics and Sociology University of Lodz, Poland
Abstract: The implementation of the low-emission economy and achieving of global goals of limiting the climate change impact requires taking into account the threats to sustainable development in the approach to risk management. Under the pressure of regulation, the market and consumers, the entities forming the food supply chain face today challenges resulting from the necessity to adapt their economic activities to the requirements of sustainable development. Sustainable development issues put businesses at risk but also can offer new opportunities. A sustainable food supply chain may become an important determinant of increasing competitive advantage. Obtaining a competitive advantage, however, cannot be limited to management at the scale of one enterprise. The business connections and the level of cooperation between enterprises and their partners are an important driver of a competitive advantage and of the possibility to accept greater responsibility in terms of sustainable development. The aim of the article is to empirically verify the aspects of relationship between suppliers and recipients in the food supply chain from the perspective of risk integration in terms of sustainable development and climate change. Domestic producers of retailers' private labels were made a particular interest for analysis. Empirical verification of risks in the area of sustainable development and climate change, using the FMEA method, made it possible to identify threats in individual links in the supply chain and calculate the value of the risk in order to estimate the consequences of this risk and define appropriate preventive actions.

Title: Significance of agriculture in the development of the bioeconomy sector in the European Union
Authors: Anna Nowak; Anna Kobiałka; Artur Krukowski
Affiliation: Department of Economics and Agribusiness, University of Life Sciences in Lublin
Abstract: Bioeconomy is a response of the European Union and its member states to global challenges such as ensuring food security, mandatory sustainable management of natural resources, mitigating climate change and reducing dependency on non-renewable resources. One of the sectors playing an important role in the development of bioeconomy is agriculture which accounts for the largest part of biomass used as a raw material for producing bioproducts. The role of agriculture in the development of bioeconomy is not only due to the base of raw materials for processing in the value chain, but most importantly, to the possibility of offering more than half of all jobs available in the bioeconomy sector. This paper is an attempt to answer the following questions: What are the basis and strategy for the development of bioeconomy in the EU? How significant is agriculture to the development of bioeconomy? What is the competitive potential of agriculture in EU countries? The survey is based on data retrieved from Data portal of agro-economics Modelling.

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