Special Issue "Motivations, Drivers, and Barriers to the Development of Sustainable Agri-Food Systems and Consumption Patterns"

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 May 2019).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Maria Cecilia Mancini
Website
Guest Editor
Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche e Aziendali, Università di Parma, 43121 Parma, Italy
Interests: food quality schemes; geographical indications; consumer perception; rural development; animal welfare economics; localised agri-food systems; short food supply chains

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Agri-food systems call for ecologically sustainable farming practices and food products purchased in ways that promote the socioeconomic viability of the agri-food systems. On the other hand, consumer demand in industrialised markets is driven by conflictual needs, ranging from low prices to ethical and health concerns.

Despite the environmental alarms, both agri-food systems and consumers still experience major difficulties in the road to sustainability. The research question of this Special Issue is: What are the stakeholders’ motivations and barriers to the development of sustainable agri-food systems and consumption patterns? We expect that the outcomes of this Special Issue will be thought-provoking to policy makers and support the development of sustainable practices in agri-food production and consumption. 

This Special Issue welcomes papers that:

  • analyse the socioeconomics of sustainable agri-food systems, including localised agri-food systems and short food supply chains;
  • analyse consumers’ perception towards sustainable consumption practices (e.g., waste disposal) and products (e.g., animal-welfare-friendly products);
  • study or propose new sustainable paradigms for conventional agri-food production and distribution systems;
  • propose potential paths of sustainable development in term of consumption patterns, including recommendations to policy-makers;
  • use innovative methodologies to evaluate or describe the stakeholders’ motivations, drivers and barriers to the development of sustainable agri-food systems and consumption patterns

Dr. Maria Cecilia Mancini
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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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 1800 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

  • localised agri-food systems
  • short food supply chains
  • consumer perception
  • socioeconomics of sustainable agri-food systems
  • stakeholders’ motivations
  • barriers
  • quality food schemes
  • ethical concerns
  • health concerns
  • animal welfare
  • geographical indications
  • policy recommendations
  • new paradigm of production
  • conventional agri-food production system

Published Papers (14 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Determinants of Farm Resilience to Climate Change: The Role of Farmer Entrepreneurship and Value Chain Collaborations
Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 868; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12030868 - 23 Jan 2020
Abstract
The concept of resilience gained traction in academic, policy, and development discourse in recent years, yet its conceptualization and application at the farm level has received little attention. For instance, recent policy recommendations present farm resilience as a silver bullet in dealing with [...] Read more.
The concept of resilience gained traction in academic, policy, and development discourse in recent years, yet its conceptualization and application at the farm level has received little attention. For instance, recent policy recommendations present farm resilience as a silver bullet in dealing with agricultural risks and uncertainty, and in achieving sustainable agri-food systems. Yet, the question of what determines farm resilience in a smallholder farming set-up remains fuzzy. To address this knowledge gap, we firstly develop a novel conceptual framework based on determinants of farm resilience and farmer adaptive capacity as a pathway through which farm resilience is strengthened. The emphasis on adaptive capacity responds to a conceptual weakness inherent in studies that present socio-ecological systems as static systems. Secondly, based on a literature review, we propose mechanisms through which farmer entrepreneurship, membership in farmer organization, and farmer–buyer relationships may influence farmer adaptive capacity and thereby farm resilience. Based on our conceptual understanding of the determinants of farm resilience, we recommend approaches that augment farmer entrepreneurship, support farmer organizations, and strengthen farmer–buyer relationships. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Sustainability, Innovation and Rural Development: The Case of Parmigiano-Reggiano PDO
Sustainability 2019, 11(18), 4978; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11184978 - 12 Sep 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Sustainability is becoming a pivotal guide for driving the governance strategies of value chains. Sustainable policy should have as its objective the perpetuation of production models over time to maintain its environmental, economic and social dimensions. Therefore, measuring the sustainability of a production [...] Read more.
Sustainability is becoming a pivotal guide for driving the governance strategies of value chains. Sustainable policy should have as its objective the perpetuation of production models over time to maintain its environmental, economic and social dimensions. Therefore, measuring the sustainability of a production system is fundamental to deepening the understanding of ongoing trends, considering the pressure exerted by agricultural policies, market dynamics and innovations introduced in the production system. The purpose of this paper is to present a holistic framework for assessing the sustainability of food quality schemes (FQS), including the role of both stakeholders within the value chain, and the territorial dimension. This paper discusses the use of dimensional indicators and proposes synthetic indexes to provide an overall picture of the evolution of sustainability of a specific production system. Particularly, the evolution of sustainability in the Parmigiano Reggiano Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) production system is evaluated over the period 2000-2018. It is assumed that its evolution is due to the effect of 20 years of innovations which have impacted on product quality, value chain performance and rural development, modifying the sustainability of the whole production system. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Short Food Supply Chains and Their Contributions to Sustainability: Participants’ Views and Perceptions from 12 European Cases
Sustainability 2019, 11(17), 4800; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11174800 - 03 Sep 2019
Cited by 5
Abstract
The present food system faces major challenges in terms of sustainable development along social, economic and environmental dimensions. These challenges are often associated with industrialised production processes and longer and less transparent distribution chains. Thus, closer distribution systems through Short Food Supply Chains [...] Read more.
The present food system faces major challenges in terms of sustainable development along social, economic and environmental dimensions. These challenges are often associated with industrialised production processes and longer and less transparent distribution chains. Thus, closer distribution systems through Short Food Supply Chains (SFSCs) may be considered as a sustainable alternative. This study explores the role of different types of SFSCs and their contribution to sustainability through participants’ (consumers, retailers and producers) views and perceptions. As part of the European H2020 project “Strength2Food” we conducted a cross-case analysis and examined 12 European SFSC cases from six countries: France, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland and the UK. We applied a mixed method approach including primary data collection, via in-depth interviews and customer surveys, as well as desk research. The findings suggest that, irrespective of the type of SFSC, a strong agreement among the participants were found on the contribution of SFSCs to social sustainability. However, participants’ views considerably differ regarding the economic and environmental dimensions of sustainability. These differences relate to the way the SFSCs were organised and to some degrees to regional differences attributed to the significance of SFSC in different parts of Europe. The article concludes that the spatial heterogeneity of SFSCs, including supply chain actor differences, different types and organisational forms of SFSCs as well as regional and territorial characteristics, must be taken into account and further emphasised in future policies aimed at strengthening European food chain sustainability. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Sharing Values for Changing Practices, a Lever for Sustainable Transformation? The Case of Farmers and Processors in Interaction within Localized Cheese Sectors
Sustainability 2019, 11(17), 4520; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11174520 - 21 Aug 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
International research and development organizations have acknowledged that localized agrifood systems, particularly geographical indications (GIs), are a lever for evolving towards sustainable agriculture. Such a premise is neither spontaneous nor systematic. Research and development organizations show their limit in proposing approaches to overcome [...] Read more.
International research and development organizations have acknowledged that localized agrifood systems, particularly geographical indications (GIs), are a lever for evolving towards sustainable agriculture. Such a premise is neither spontaneous nor systematic. Research and development organizations show their limit in proposing approaches to overcome this raised issue: The performance-based approach of sustainability, associated with a strict economical understanding of activities, is at stake. We propose the introduction of a values-based approach to the understanding of localized activities and their contribution to sustainability. We base our demonstration on the study of the relationships between stakeholders within GIs on a day-to-day basis: Corsica and Western Pyrenees (WP) are regions where traditional cheeses (respectively GI Brocciu and GI Ossau-Iraty) are produced with ewe milk. We build a typology of relationships between farmers providing the milk and dairies, based on the theory of worlds of worth (from industrial to artisanal). We cross-reference it with values given to milk and cheese. Despite the framing role of GIs, milk is mainly valued according to industrial criteria of quantity and sound farming practices have no weightage. However, artisanal and civic initiatives have emerged using raw milk and fostering more sustainable practices, notably based on organic farming. Though those initiatives are currently marginal, they might be promising seeds of change. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Measuring the Economic, Environmental, and Social Sustainability of Short Food Supply Chains
Sustainability 2019, 11(15), 4004; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11154004 - 24 Jul 2019
Cited by 9
Abstract
The production and distribution of food are among the hot topics debated in the context of sustainable development. Short food supply chains (SFSCs) are now widely believed to be more sustainable in comparison to mass food delivery systems. To date, very little quantitative [...] Read more.
The production and distribution of food are among the hot topics debated in the context of sustainable development. Short food supply chains (SFSCs) are now widely believed to be more sustainable in comparison to mass food delivery systems. To date, very little quantitative evidence exists on the impacts of various types of food supply chains. Using a cross-sectional quantitative approach, this study assesses the sustainability of distribution channels in short and long food supply chains based on 208 food producers across seven countries: France, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam. Ten distribution channel types are used in this study. To provide a comprehensive sustainability assessment, a set of economic, social, and environmental indicators are applied. Indicators commonly used in the literature are used, supported by original indicators constructed specifically for the present study. In total, 486 chains are examined and the study confirms that individual producers participate simultaneously in several, short and long chains. Participation in SFSCs is beneficial for producers from an economic perspective. SFSCs allow producers to capture a large proportion of margin otherwise absorbed by different intermediaries. It appears, however, that ’longer’ supply channels generate lower environmental impacts per unit of production when measured in terms of food miles and carbon footprint. Finally, ambiguous results are found regarding social dimension, with significant differences across types of chains. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Empirical Evaluation of Vocation to Solidarity Economy Using Composite Indicators
Sustainability 2019, 11(14), 3910; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11143910 - 18 Jul 2019
Abstract
Many scholars today are deepening economic issues by looking at new paradigms based on the relationship between communities and the resources of the territory. The proposals are different, mainly focusing on economic theories such as solidarity economy, a mix of theories and practices [...] Read more.
Many scholars today are deepening economic issues by looking at new paradigms based on the relationship between communities and the resources of the territory. The proposals are different, mainly focusing on economic theories such as solidarity economy, a mix of theories and practices based on equity, sustainability, democracy, and reciprocity. The growing legislation on solidarity economy implies to develop tools to support Administrations and Communities throughout the process of effective realization. The aim of this study is to propose a methodology for evaluating the Vocation to Solidarity Economy (VSE) by means of a composite indicator (VSE index) and apply it to the territory of Friuli Venezia Giulia Region in the northeast of Italy. A series of basic factors concerning social, economic, and environmental aspects was defined by multidisciplinary experts and used for VSE index calculations. The spatialization of VSE index allows the assessment of the vocation of territories in supporting the paths to become Communities of Solidarity Economy as defined by a recent regional law. As results of subsequent VSE spatialization we obtain the maps which highlight different characteristics within the Region (i.e. urban/rural relations) helping local administrations to improve current policies towards sustainability. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Sustainability Assessment of Agricultural Systems in Paraguay: A Comparative Study Using FAO’s SAFA Framework
Sustainability 2019, 11(13), 3745; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11133745 - 09 Jul 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Sustainability is a topic that is at the center of current discussions in the political, economic, social, and environmental fields. For its analysis, an integral and multidisciplinary vision is needed. This work aims to assess the sustainability of agricultural systems in Paraguay through [...] Read more.
Sustainability is a topic that is at the center of current discussions in the political, economic, social, and environmental fields. For its analysis, an integral and multidisciplinary vision is needed. This work aims to assess the sustainability of agricultural systems in Paraguay through a comparison applying SAFA (Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture Systems) indicators. The research focuses on 15 case studies on the territory of the Eastern Region of Paraguay divided into five classes of agricultural systems: agribusiness, conventional peasant family farming, agroecological peasant family farming, neo-rural farming, and indigenous agriculture. Data were collected through interviews with producers and key informants, direct observation, and scientific literature research in order to assess, through the SAFA Tool Software, the level of sustainability of each agricultural system as a whole and for each sustainability dimension (political, environmental, economic, and social dimension) in a comparative way. It has emerged that producers belonging to conventional peasant family farming, agroecological peasant family farming, neo-rural farming, and indigenous agriculture have achieved levels of sustainability that are similar to each other and very good in all four dimensions of sustainability. Meanwhile, agribusiness achieved moderate scores in the dimensions of governance and environmental integrity, and was good in the economic and social dimension. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Neuroeconomics Meets Aquaponics: An Eye-tracking Pilot Study on Perception of Information about Aquaponics
Sustainability 2019, 11(13), 3580; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11133580 - 28 Jun 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Aquaponics is an innovative food production method that combines the production of aquatic organisms with plant production. This can have environmental advantages such as reducing land conversion and resource input and waste output through nutrient cycling. To support the dissemination of aquaponics, key [...] Read more.
Aquaponics is an innovative food production method that combines the production of aquatic organisms with plant production. This can have environmental advantages such as reducing land conversion and resource input and waste output through nutrient cycling. To support the dissemination of aquaponics, key stakeholders need to be appropriately informed about this production method, an aspect that has received little attention so far. In this pilot study, visual perception of information about aquaponics was explored using eye tracking combined with a questionnaire. The results show that people distinguish between aquaponics variants when evaluating aquaponics. A production system with a more natural appearance is preferred. Allocation of visual attention is linked to the specific information content and to the assessment of the naturalness of aquaponics production. The results of the present study could form a basis for further research, not only to make information about food production systems more appropriate but also to develop food production systems in a way that people become more aware of the sustainability aspects of production methods and its products. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Agrobiodiversity Products in Alternative Food System: Case of Finnish Native Cattle Breeds
Sustainability 2019, 11(12), 3408; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11123408 - 20 Jun 2019
Abstract
Agrobiodiversity products i.e., products from native breeds and plant species can make a valuable contribution to a local food market while also maintaining and preserving ecological and cultural values. There have been attempts to create markets for these products, but they continue to [...] Read more.
Agrobiodiversity products i.e., products from native breeds and plant species can make a valuable contribution to a local food market while also maintaining and preserving ecological and cultural values. There have been attempts to create markets for these products, but they continue to be marginal across the world. Previous research revealed how various stakeholders perceive the native breeds and their products. This study applied a transdisciplinary, multi-actor co-production of knowledge approach that is often used in the food system research. The approach aims at improving the understanding of the ecological, regional and social embeddedness of a Finnish native breed, the Finncattle, and at co-creating feasible supply chains for Finncattle products. The study confirmed that the market does not work and the embeddedness may also constitute some challenges for the development of feasible product chains. The study suggested some practical solutions to overcome these challenges. Furthermore, the results revealed some weaknesses of the co-production of knowledge approach used and discussed possible reasons that can be further explored in future research. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Spatio-Temporal Pattern Change of Winter Wheat Production and Its Implications in the North China Plain
Sustainability 2019, 11(11), 3028; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11113028 - 28 May 2019
Abstract
The North China Plain (NCP) is the most important winter wheat production region and an area of water shortage in China. The stability of winter wheat (T. aestivum L.) production in spatial pattern and the sustainability of water resources have been [...] Read more.
The North China Plain (NCP) is the most important winter wheat production region and an area of water shortage in China. The stability of winter wheat (T. aestivum L.) production in spatial pattern and the sustainability of water resources have been a major policy concern in China. This study explored the barycenter shift and change trends of wheat total production during 1998–2015, using methods of barycenter model, Sen’s slope, and Mann Kendall test, and analyzed the influence of external factors and the response of water resources. Results indicated that the barycenter of wheat production moved southwards by 115.16 km during 1998–2015, with an average speed of 6.77 km/year. For the entire NCP, the total production showed phased changes during the study period: It decreased during 1998–2003, and then continuously increased during 2004–2015. Of the wheat production increase in the NCP, yield increase and sown area expansion averagely contributed 64.5% and 35.5%, respectively, and the contribution proportion of yield increase continuously increased since 2003. At county level, total wheat production showed a significant increase and decrease trend in 87 and 29 counties, mainly distributed in the southern and northern NCP, respectively. The increase of total production at county level was mainly contributed by yield growth in the southern NCP, while the decrease in the north was due to the reduction of sown area to great extent. The southward shift was jointly resulted by the spatial variation of input factors, benefit, and water prices. These spatial pattern changes alleviated the water pressure in the north region to some extent, in the case of ensuring the production increase of winter wheat. Therefore, the current spatial shift should be continuously promoted in the future. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Corporate–NGO Partnerships through Sustainability Labeling Schemes: Motives and Risks
Sustainability 2019, 11(9), 2689; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11092689 - 11 May 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
This article examines the development of partnerships between multinational companies (MNCs) and large nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) through voluntary product labeling schemes. First, the economics, management, and business literature are reviewed to highlight cross-checking, consistencies, and complementarities among these disciplines to identify and analyze [...] Read more.
This article examines the development of partnerships between multinational companies (MNCs) and large nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) through voluntary product labeling schemes. First, the economics, management, and business literature are reviewed to highlight cross-checking, consistencies, and complementarities among these disciplines to identify and analyze the motives of partnering via voluntary product labeling. This analysis shows that, through such partnerships, companies and NGOs share similar objectives, viability and visibility and exchange essential resources, information and legitimacy. The development of shared goals and the complementarity of resources are the basis for successful partnerships, but they also create a phenomenon of blurred roles between companies and NGOs. Each partner enters the other’s sphere, which allows for better communication among partners, a clear and common vision of the partnership, a mutual trust, and a symmetric commitment of partners, necessary conditions for successful partnerships. However, I show that this phenomenon also leads to new risks for partners: competition, “NGO-capture”, and inconsistency. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Nitrified Human Urine as a Sustainable and Socially Acceptable Fertilizer: An Analysis of Consumer Acceptance in Msunduzi, South Africa
Sustainability 2019, 11(9), 2456; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11092456 - 26 Apr 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
Sustainable smallholder farming is contingent on fertilizer access. Soils across Africa are typically nutrient deficient, a condition exacerbated by long-term nutrient mining. Nitrified urine fertilizer is a nutrient-rich and hygienically safe solution derived from human urine. It has the potential to provide a [...] Read more.
Sustainable smallholder farming is contingent on fertilizer access. Soils across Africa are typically nutrient deficient, a condition exacerbated by long-term nutrient mining. Nitrified urine fertilizer is a nutrient-rich and hygienically safe solution derived from human urine. It has the potential to provide a sustainable source of soil nutrients to low and middle-income countries struggling with food insecurity challenges. This study presents findings of a survey that assessed public acceptance within Msunduzi, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa towards the use of nitrified urine fertilizer. Results indicate that in general attitudes were much more positive towards the use of nitrified urine fertilizer than raw urine as a soil amendment. Residents living within rural zones of the municipality (78.5%), as opposed to urban (65.7%) and peri-urban (65.2%), and younger individuals within the sampled population were found to be the most receptive to the use of nitrified urine fertilizer. Our findings also underscore the complex set of factors that shape attitudes towards a topic such as the use of human waste as a fertilizer, which are crucial in shaping the legitimacy of an emerging technology such as urine nitrification. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Multitemporal Geospatial Evaluation of Urban Agriculture and (Non)-Sustainable Food Self-Provisioning in Milan, Italy
Sustainability 2019, 11(7), 1846; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11071846 - 27 Mar 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Urban agriculture in Global North cities is strongly promoted as a sustainable solution to achieve different goals, such as food production, quality of life, and well-being. Although several attempts have been made to evaluate urban agriculture production, few studies have investigated food production [...] Read more.
Urban agriculture in Global North cities is strongly promoted as a sustainable solution to achieve different goals, such as food production, quality of life, and well-being. Although several attempts have been made to evaluate urban agriculture production, few studies have investigated food production in a multitemporal geospatial way and considered per capita population needs, gender, and age strata consumption. This study presents a spatiotemporal quantification of urban agriculture in the city of Milan (Italy) for assessing food self-provisioning potential. We utilized high-resolution Google Earth images and ancillary data to create a detailed cadaster of urban agriculture for the years 2007 and 2014. Based on four scenarios of food production and statistical data on vegetables and cereals consumption, we estimated current total production and requirements for the city dwellers. Our results showed that the actual extension of vegetable gardens (98 ha) and arable land (2539 ha) in the best scenario could satisfy approximately 63,700 and 321,000 consumers of vegetables and cereal products, respectively. Overall, current urban agriculture production is not able to meet vegetables and cereal consumption for more than 1.3 million city residents. Scenario estimates suggest rethinking land use promoting horticultural production to achieve more sustainable food systems. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Economic Drivers of Legume Production: Approached via Opportunity Costs and Transaction Costs
Sustainability 2019, 11(3), 705; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11030705 - 29 Jan 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Crop diversification is one of the main mechanisms identified for developing a more sustainable agriculture. Legumes are interesting diversifying crops to add to crop rotations because of their many positive impacts on agronomic systems. Nonetheless, production of these crops remains relatively low in [...] Read more.
Crop diversification is one of the main mechanisms identified for developing a more sustainable agriculture. Legumes are interesting diversifying crops to add to crop rotations because of their many positive impacts on agronomic systems. Nonetheless, production of these crops remains relatively low in Europe, in part because of socio-economic factors. The objective of this study was to analyze how the economic attractiveness of legumes may be influenced by two factors: opportunity costs and transaction costs. The method is divided into three steps. First, we built a database of opportunity costs of legumes from a literature review. Second, we qualitatively characterized transaction costs associated with exchange of legumes between producers and collectors. Third, we qualitatively analyzed if contracts currently offered in western France decreased transaction costs. For comparison, transaction costs of linseed were also studied. Our results indicate that legumes are economically attractive at the rotation scale due to zero or negative opportunity costs, but that their transaction costs are high. The contracts studied do not decrease these transaction costs sufficiently, in particular because uncertainties in price remain high in half of these contracts. Downstream differentiation seems necessary to decrease transaction costs by creating added value along the entire agro-food chain. Full article
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