Special Issue "Environmental and Economic Performance of Farming and Food Systems"

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2020).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Sean Clark
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Berea College, Berea, KY 40404, USA
Interests: agroecology; food systems; cropping systems; soil quality; pest management; entomology; horticulture; climate change mitigation
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Understanding the environmental and economic consequences of current and future farming and food systems is fundamental for addressing the complicated and interrelated sustainability challenges we face as a society. Food production and consumption account for a substantial part of the total greenhouse gas emissions, energy and water consumption, and other environmental impacts. Traditional and emerging approaches to address these issues have economic consequences that may be positive or negative for farmers, consumers, and others in the supply chain. The goal of this Special Issue is to offer insights into how different practices, systems, technologies, and approaches to food production affect environmental and economic performance.

Field experiments, case studies, and reviews assessing environmental and/or economic aspects of farming and food will be considered. Topics could include the following: production systems, such as organic farming, cover cropping, conservation tillage, crop and livestock integration, hydroponics/aquaponics, agroforestry, rooftop farming, and urban farming; new developments in life and food sciences, such as conventional breeding, genetic engineering, plant-based meat and milk alternatives, and CRISPR; supply chain innovations, like community supported agriculture (CSA), food hubs, farmers’ markets, value-added production, blockchain technologies, e-commerce, and third-party certifications; and information technologies and robotics, such as smart farming, artificial intelligence (AI), robotic weeders, drones, robotic milking systems, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Performance assessment methods and variables could include life cycle assessment (LCA), greenhouse gas emissions, water-use efficiency, energy efficiency, soil quality, costs of production, profitability, farm resilience, biodiversity protection, pesticide and fertilizer use, labor efficiency, food miles, and dietary and health effects.

Prof. Sean Clark
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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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.

Keywords

  • community supported agriculture (CSA)
  • food hubs
  • organic farming
  • artificial intelligence
  • value-added production
  • supply chains
  • smart farming
  • greenhouse gas emissions
  • appropriate technology
  • profitability

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Research

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Article
Productivity, Profitability and Nitrogen Utilisation Efficiency of Two Pasture-Based Milk Production Systems Differing in the Milking Frequency and Feeding Level
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 2098; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13042098 - 16 Feb 2021
Viewed by 385
Abstract
The aim of this study was to model the productivity, profitability and the nitrogen (N) utilisation efficiency (NUE) of two spring-calving pasture-based milk production systems differing in milking frequency and intensification levels in New Zealand. For this purpose, physical performance data from a [...] Read more.
The aim of this study was to model the productivity, profitability and the nitrogen (N) utilisation efficiency (NUE) of two spring-calving pasture-based milk production systems differing in milking frequency and intensification levels in New Zealand. For this purpose, physical performance data from a low-intensity production system where cows were milked once per day (OAD-LI) and from a high-intensity production system where cows were milked twice per day (TAD-HI) were employed. OAD-LI cows were milked once-daily with a stocking rate (SR) of 2.1 cows/ha and fed diets with low supplementation (304 kg pasture silage/cow) with applications of 134 kg N fertiliser/ha and TAD-HI cows were milked twice-daily with a SR of 2.8 cows/ha and fed diets of higher supplementation (429 kg pasture silage and 1695 kg concentrate/cow) with applications of 87 kg N fertiliser/ha. The Moorepark Dairy System Model was used to evaluate production, economic performance and N balance on an annual basis. Despite the higher feed costs of TAD-HI as more supplementation was utilised, profitability per hectare was 16% higher because more cows were milked with a higher milk yield per cow (milking frequency) when compared to OAD-LI. At the cow level, the NUE was higher in TAD-HI (30% vs. 27%) reflecting the better balanced diet for energy and crude protein and higher milk yields as a result of milking frequency. At the farm scale the NUE was higher (38% vs. 26%) in the TAD-HI due to the losses associated with the imported feed being excluded and higher N captured in milk. These results suggest that milking frequency, the use of feed supplementation and application of N fertiliser as management tools on grazing dairy systems affect productivity, profitability and N balance. Further studies are required to find optimal stocking rates in combination with the use of supplementary feed and N fertiliser application that maximize milk production and profitability for OAD and TAD milking production systems but minimize N losses. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental and Economic Performance of Farming and Food Systems)
Article
Increasing Profitability and Monitoring Environmental Performance: A Case Study in the Agri-Food Industry through an Edge-IoT Platform
Sustainability 2021, 13(1), 283; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13010283 - 30 Dec 2020
Viewed by 819
Abstract
Globalization has led to a new paradigm where the traditional industries, such as agriculture, employ vanguard technologies to broaden its possibilities into what is known as smart farming and the agri-food industry 4.0. This industry needs to adapt to the current market through [...] Read more.
Globalization has led to a new paradigm where the traditional industries, such as agriculture, employ vanguard technologies to broaden its possibilities into what is known as smart farming and the agri-food industry 4.0. This industry needs to adapt to the current market through an efficient use of resources while being environmentally friendly. The most commonly used approaches for analyzing efficiency and sustainability on farms are production efficiency based analyses, such as Data Envelopment Analysis and Stochastic Frontier Analysis, since they allow to see how efficient the outputs are generated regardless of the units of measurement of the inputs. This work presents a real scenario for making farms more profitable and sustainable through the analysis of the Data Envelopment Analysis and the application of the Internet of Things and Edge Computing. What makes this model interesting is that it allows monitoring the ambient conditions with real-time data from the different sensors that have been installed on the farm, minimizing costs and gaining robustness in the transmission of the data to the cloud with Edge Computing, and then to have a complete overview in terms of monthly resource efficiency through the Data Envelopment Analysis. The results show that including the costs of edge and non-edge data transfer have an impact on the efficiency. This small-scale study set the basis for a future test with many farms simultaneously. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental and Economic Performance of Farming and Food Systems)
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Article
Factors Affecting the Use of Organic Seed by Organic Farmers in Europe
Sustainability 2020, 12(20), 8540; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12208540 - 15 Oct 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 729
Abstract
The new European Organic Regulation 2018/848 has announced the phasing out of derogations for the use of untreated non-organic seed by 2036. However, the use of organic seed by organic farmers is currently limited. This paper aims to identify the factors affecting the [...] Read more.
The new European Organic Regulation 2018/848 has announced the phasing out of derogations for the use of untreated non-organic seed by 2036. However, the use of organic seed by organic farmers is currently limited. This paper aims to identify the factors affecting the use of organic seed. It is based on data collected from 749 organic farmers in 20 European countries, by conducting an online survey and using a network sampling. Results of the descriptive statistics and linear mixed models indicate that: (1) the situation of organic seed use is not consistent across geographical regions and crop sectors; (2) the use of organic seed is higher on farms selling directly to consumers than on those selling to supermarkets; (3) larger and more recently converted farms use less organic seed than established organic farms. In the second part of the paper, we analyse farmers’ attitudes towards organic seed use. The structural equation model (SEM) suggests that the highest contribution to explaining intention to use organic seed comes from social norms, i.e., farmers’ perception of societal expectations, particularly from the consumer and the organic certifier. Such expectations, if communicated in the public and political discourse, could stimulate the use of organic seed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental and Economic Performance of Farming and Food Systems)
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Article
Investigation of Input and Output Energy for Wheat Production: A Comprehensive Study for Tehsil Mailsi (Pakistan)
Sustainability 2020, 12(17), 6884; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12176884 - 24 Aug 2020
Viewed by 1104
Abstract
The global increasing food demand can be met by efficient energy utilization in mechanized agricultural productions. In this study, input–output energy flow along with CO2 emissions for different wheat production cases (C-I to C-V) were investigated to identify the one that is [...] Read more.
The global increasing food demand can be met by efficient energy utilization in mechanized agricultural productions. In this study, input–output energy flow along with CO2 emissions for different wheat production cases (C-I to C-V) were investigated to identify the one that is most energy-efficient and environment-friendly case. Data and information about input and output sources were collected from farmers through questionnaires and face-to-face interviews. Input and output sources were converted into energy units by energy equivalents while CO2 emissions were calculated by emission equivalents. Data envelopment analysis (DEA) was conducted to compare technical efficiencies of the developed cases for optimization of inputs in inefficient cases. Results revealed that case C-Ⅴ (higher inputs, larger fields, the tendency of higher fertilizer application and tillage operations) has the highest energy inputs and outputs than the rest of the cases. Moreover, it possesses the lowest energy use efficiency and energy productivity. The highest CO2 emissions (1548 kg-CO2/ha) referred to C-Ⅴ while lowest emissions per ton of grain yield were determined in C-Ⅳ (higher electricity water pumping, moderate energy input). The grain yield increases directly with input energy in most of the cases, but it does not guarantee the highest values for energy indices. C-Ⅲ (moderate irrigations, educated farmers, various fertilizer applications) was found as an optimum case because of higher energy indices like energy use efficiency of 4.4 and energy productivity of 153.94 kg/GJ. Optimum input and better management practices may enhance energy proficiency and limit the traditionally uncontrolled CO2 emissions from wheat production. Therefore, the agricultural practices performed in C-Ⅲ are recommended for efficient cultivation of wheat in the studied area. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental and Economic Performance of Farming and Food Systems)
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Article
Effects of Cultivating Rice and Wheat with and without Organic Fertilizer Application on Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Soil Quality in Khost, Afghanistan
Sustainability 2020, 12(16), 6508; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12166508 - 12 Aug 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1450
Abstract
The agricultural sector is the most important economic component in Afghanistan, as 80% of the population is involved. The improvement of cereal production is an urgent task to meet the nation’s demand for the staple within the limited arable land. To promote a [...] Read more.
The agricultural sector is the most important economic component in Afghanistan, as 80% of the population is involved. The improvement of cereal production is an urgent task to meet the nation’s demand for the staple within the limited arable land. To promote a sustainable crop production system, this study examined the soil quality to learn the basic knowledge of soil fertility and the environmental impact of different rice–wheat cropping systems in Khost, Afghanistan by using the life cycle assessment (LCA) method. The economic analysis of each farming system was conducted by the data gathered by the farmers’ interviews along with LCA data collection. The analysis considered the on-farm activities, which were required to produce 1 kg of wheat and rice. It included energy use, production, and farming inputs such as fertilizer and agrochemicals. Conventional farming with organic fertilizer application (CF+OF) was compared with conventional farming (CF). The LCA results showed the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emission was higher in rice production compared to wheat production. However, CO2 absorption by the crops was far greater than the total GHG emission in both systems and showed great potential for soil carbon sequestration for mitigation of global warming. The soil examination revealed the CF+OF system increased soil total carbon (TC), active C (AC), total N (TN), soil organic carbon storage (SCS), P, and K+ after four years of organic fertilizer application. The yield of each crop was slightly higher in the CF system; however, the CF+OF system increased net income by reducing the cost for fertilizer. The study concluded the CF+OF system can improve soil fertility in the long term while saving the farming operation cost. Further research is required to determine the best combination of practices to improve cattle manure characteristics and farm management for soil carbon sequestration to promote a sustainable farming system in the country. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental and Economic Performance of Farming and Food Systems)
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Article
Farmers’ Adoption Preferences for Sustainable Agriculture Practices in Northwest China
Sustainability 2020, 12(15), 6269; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12156269 - 04 Aug 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 977
Abstract
In the highest soil erosion regions of arid and semiarid northwest China, water resource deficits and farmland misuse have further exacerbated soil degradation. Therefore, understanding how farmers in diverse agroclimatic zones perceive and respond to different conservation practices is important to the implementation [...] Read more.
In the highest soil erosion regions of arid and semiarid northwest China, water resource deficits and farmland misuse have further exacerbated soil degradation. Therefore, understanding how farmers in diverse agroclimatic zones perceive and respond to different conservation practices is important to the implementation of sustainable agriculture practices (SAPs). To this end, this study uses a best–worst scaling approach to examine the adoption preferences for nine SAPs among grain and cash crop farmers and investigates the influence of farm and climatic characteristics on adoption preferences based on a face to face survey of 554 households in Gansu province, which is classified as an arid and semiarid area in northwest China. Both grain and cash crop farmers had stronger preferences for the practices of using organic instead of chemical fertilizers and of improving irrigation practices. In addition, while cash crop farmers also had strong preferences for cover crop-related practices, they preferred long-term fallows least. Household income, livestock, and precipitation influence the potential perceived importance of SAPs. The different perceived importance of these practices suggests new possible combinations or packages for a sustainable agriculture program during the cropping structure adjustment in Gansu. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental and Economic Performance of Farming and Food Systems)
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Article
Glyphosate Use in the European Agricultural Sector and a Framework for Its Further Monitoring
Sustainability 2020, 12(14), 5682; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12145682 - 15 Jul 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1197
Abstract
Monitoring pesticide use is essential for assessing farming practices and the risks associated with the use of pesticides. Currently, there are neither consolidated, public data available on glyphosate use in Europe, nor a standardized categorization of its major uses. In this study, data [...] Read more.
Monitoring pesticide use is essential for assessing farming practices and the risks associated with the use of pesticides. Currently, there are neither consolidated, public data available on glyphosate use in Europe, nor a standardized categorization of its major uses. In this study, data on glyphosate sales and use in Europe were collected from multiple sources and compiled into a dataset of the agricultural use of glyphosate from 2013 to 2017. The survey shows that glyphosate represented 33% of the herbicide volume sold in Europe in 2017. One third of the acreage of annual cropping systems and half of the acreage of perennial tree crops received glyphosate annually. Glyphosate is widely used for at least eight agronomic purposes, including weed control, crop desiccation, terminating cover crops, terminating temporary grassland and renewing permanent grassland. Glyphosate use can be classified into occasional uses—i.e., exceptional applications, triggered by meteorological conditions or specific farm constraints—and recurrent uses, which are widespread practices that are embedded in farming systems and for which other agronomic solutions may exist but are not frequently used. This article proposes a framework for the precise monitoring of glyphosate use, based on the identification of the cropping systems in which glyphosate is used, the agronomic purposes for which it is employed, the dose used and the rationale behind the different uses. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental and Economic Performance of Farming and Food Systems)
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Article
Financial Viability of an On-Farm Processing and Retail Enterprise: A Case Study of Value-Added Agriculture in Rural Kentucky (USA)
Sustainability 2020, 12(2), 708; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12020708 - 18 Jan 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1398
Abstract
Value-added processing and direct marketing are commonly recommended strategies for increasing income and improving the economic viability of small farms. This case study uses partial budgeting to examine the performance of an on-farm store in Kentucky (USA) over a six-year period (2014–2019), intended [...] Read more.
Value-added processing and direct marketing are commonly recommended strategies for increasing income and improving the economic viability of small farms. This case study uses partial budgeting to examine the performance of an on-farm store in Kentucky (USA) over a six-year period (2014–2019), intended for adding value to raw farm ingredients through processing and direct sales to consumers. Three primary product supply chains were aggregated, stored, processed, and sold through the farm store: livestock (meats), grains (flours and meals), and fresh produce (fruits, vegetables, and herbs). In addition, prepared foods were made largely from the farm’s ingredients and sold as ready-to-eat meals. Whole-farm income increased substantially as a result of the farm-store enterprise but the costs of operation exceeded the added income in every year of the study, illustrating the challenges to small farms in achieving a sufficient economy of scale in value-added enterprises. By the final two years of the study period, the enterprise was approaching break-even status. Ready-to-eat items, initially accounting for a small fraction total sales, were the most important product category by the end of the study period. This study highlights the importance of adaptability in the survival and growth of a value-adding enterprise as well as the critical role of subsidies in establishing similar enterprises, particularly in low-income, rural areas. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental and Economic Performance of Farming and Food Systems)
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Article
Factors and Minimal Subsidy Associated with Tea Farmers’ Willingness to Adopt Ecological Pest Management
Sustainability 2019, 11(22), 6190; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11226190 - 06 Nov 2019
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 612
Abstract
Scientific assessment related to the externalities of the tea ecological pest management (TEPM) system that can affect socio-economic development and ecological benefits is important to the sustainable development of the tea industry. This paper used the contingent valuation method to evaluate the externalities [...] Read more.
Scientific assessment related to the externalities of the tea ecological pest management (TEPM) system that can affect socio-economic development and ecological benefits is important to the sustainable development of the tea industry. This paper used the contingent valuation method to evaluate the externalities associated with TEPM and the factors affecting its adoption by farmers through survey data collected from Anxi county, Fujian province, China. The results showed that the positive externalities, which were not internalized (embodied in price), affected the willingness of tea farmers to adopt TEPM. The willingness to accept a subsidy for adopting the TEPM system was significantly affected by the individual tea farmer’s age, education level, income, size of plantation, knowledge of human health and risk preference. The compensation threshold of externalities for TEPM was 5668.80 yuan per hectare per year. It is suggested that the government should adopt this threshold as a minimum subsidy to mitigate information asymmetry in two markets, namely ecological management technology and trading between suppliers and buyers of tea products. Finally, production stability and improved price for high quality tea resulting from healthy ecology in TEPM could enhance positive externalities. This coupled with other benefits, such as a reduction in the amount of resources spent on pesticides, could result in governmental subsidies for TEPM being gradually reduced over time. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental and Economic Performance of Farming and Food Systems)
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Review

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Review
Trends and Future Directions in Crop Energy Analyses: A Focus on Iran
Sustainability 2020, 12(23), 10002; https://doi.org/10.3390/su122310002 - 30 Nov 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 701
Abstract
This systematic review critically analyzes the literature on the study of energy-use patterns in agricultural crop systems in Iran. We examine the relevant methodologies and research trends from 2008 to 2019, a particularly active and productive period. Initially, we find researchers using energy [...] Read more.
This systematic review critically analyzes the literature on the study of energy-use patterns in agricultural crop systems in Iran. We examine the relevant methodologies and research trends from 2008 to 2019, a particularly active and productive period. Initially, we find researchers using energy audits and regression modeling to estimate energy-use patterns. Then economic and environmental-emissions audits are more commonly incorporated into analyses. Finally, the application of different Artificial Intelligence (AI) methods are observed in papers. The main focus of this study is on energy-use patterns, economic modelling, and environmental emissions. We then address critical issues, including sample size, energy equivalents, and additional practical energy-saving recommendations which can be considered by researchers in future analyses. The application of AI in the analysis of agricultural systems, and how it can be used to achieve sustainable agriculture, is discussed with the aim of providing guidelines for researchers interested in energy flow in agricultural systems, especially in Iran. To achieve sustainable agriculture systems, we recommend more attention be given toward considering the impact of social factors in addition to energy, environmental and economic factors. Finally, this review should guide other researchers in choosing appropriate crop types and regions in need study to avoid repetitive studies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental and Economic Performance of Farming and Food Systems)
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Review
Factors Influencing Adoption of Sustainable Farming Practices in Europe: A Systemic Review of Empirical Literature
Sustainability 2020, 12(22), 9719; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12229719 - 21 Nov 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1276
Abstract
Modern practices of industrial farming, such as mineral fertilization, caused a widespread degradation of agricultural land and water bodies in Europe. Different farm management strategies exist to reduce the impact of mineral fertilization while preserving soil productivity. The aim of this paper is [...] Read more.
Modern practices of industrial farming, such as mineral fertilization, caused a widespread degradation of agricultural land and water bodies in Europe. Different farm management strategies exist to reduce the impact of mineral fertilization while preserving soil productivity. The aim of this paper is to provide a thorough systemic review of contemporary literature exploring factors and conditions affecting EU farmers’ adoption of sustainable farming practices. The specific focus is on widely adopted and empirically explored measures, such as organic farming, manure treatment technologies and manure fertilization, as well as soil and water conservation methods. In total, 23 peer-reviewed studies were extracted by means of Google Scholar covering the time period between 2003 and 2019. The main findings show that farmers’ environmental and economic attitudes in addition to their sources of information have a strong effect on the adoption of organic farming, although there is a lack of evidence of their impact on adopting manure treatment and conservation measures. Similarly, farmers’ age and education are found to systemically influence organic farming adoption, but not adoption of other reviewed technologies. While other factors, such as farm physical characteristics or technological attributes, may be important determinants of adoption, it is hard to recognize definite patterns of their impact across technologies given a shortage of empirical evidence. More research utilizing standardized surveys and methods of analysis is needed to formulate qualified guidelines and recommendations for policymakers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental and Economic Performance of Farming and Food Systems)
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Other

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Opinion
Organic Farming and Climate Change: The Need for Innovation
Sustainability 2020, 12(17), 7012; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12177012 - 28 Aug 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1392
Abstract
Organic agriculture has experienced remarkable growth in recent decades as societal interest in environmental protection and healthy eating has increased. Research has shown that relative to conventional agriculture, organic farming is more efficient in its use of non-renewable energy, maintains or improves soil [...] Read more.
Organic agriculture has experienced remarkable growth in recent decades as societal interest in environmental protection and healthy eating has increased. Research has shown that relative to conventional agriculture, organic farming is more efficient in its use of non-renewable energy, maintains or improves soil quality, and has less of a detrimental effect on water quality and biodiversity. Studies have had more mixed findings, however, when examining the impact of organic farming on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change. Life cycle assessments (LCAs) in particular have indicated that organic farming can often result in higher GHG emissions per unit product as a result of lower yields. The organic movement has the opportunity to embrace the science of LCA and use this information in developing tools for site-specific assessments that can point toward strategies for improvements. Responding effectively to the climate change crisis should be at the core of the organic movement’s values. Additionally, while societal-level behavioral and policy changes will be required to reduce waste and shift diets to achieve essential reductions in GHG emissions throughout food systems, organic farming should be open to seriously considering emerging technologies and methods to improve its performance and reduce GHG emissions at the production stage. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental and Economic Performance of Farming and Food Systems)
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