Volume 32, Issue 1, Pages 1-120 (January 2010)

This special issue is the product of the First International Symposium on Farming Systems Design organized in September 2007 in Catania, Italy by the European and American Societies for Agronomy (ESA and ASA), the International Environmental Modelling and Software Society and the International Farming Systems Association.

The challenge is ‘to produce methods and tools that can be used locally by applied researchers and extension specialists to adapt cropping systems in collaboration with farmers…
From mono-criteria to multi-criteria design. Even if the production function of cropping systems remains a major pillar of sustainability in many regions of the world, it has to be combined with an increasing number of other assessment criteria related to the negative externalities, environmental and social services of agriculture.
From field scale to multi-scale design. For several of the processes to be manipulated in the design of these multi-functional cropping systems, the proper scale at which they operate is often larger than field scale. Examples are the landscape scale for disease management or the farm scale for socio-economics. The challenge of agronomic research is to keep the field as the biophysical unit of crop management, while developing methods and knowledge for up- and down-scaling with the traditional (farm) and new (landscape, watershed, natural ecosystems) embedding and contextual aspects of cropping systems.
From stable to unstable environment. Designing new cropping systems is a long process and it occurs in a rapidly changing environment. This is exemplified by climate but also by the economy (prices and policies) and the changing demands and functions that society assigns to agricultural systems. The design process has therefore to integrate objectives of the resilience and flexibility of cropping systems in an unpredictable environment.’ J. Wery,  and J.W.A. Langeveld, guest editors