Assessing the sustainability of irish agriculture
Dillon, Emma J.
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Dillon, Emma J. Hennessy, Thia; Hynes, Stephen (2010). Assessing the sustainability of irish agriculture. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 8 (3), 131-147
Indicators encompassing the multidimensional nature of sustainability (economic, environmental and social) are developed here using Irish National Farm Survey data over an 11-year period (1996-2006). This is the first such study undertaken for Ireland, and the results show significant change over the decade in all three areas examined. The general concept of sustainability is discussed and the development of agricultural sustainability indicators in an Irish context is described. Individual indicators are dealt with in turn, and the RERC SMILE model is used to demonstrate how these indicators can be derived at a spatial level below the national scale. Economic viability was found to be generally in decline over the 10-year period examined. However, when individual farming systems were taken into account, some were found to perform better than others. From an environmental perspective, the more intensive farming systems (primarily dairy) were found to pollute more on average, while in more general terms the levels of methane emissions produced per hectare have been falling over the reference period. Results also indicate that rural Ireland is experiencing a period of fundamental change in terms of the demographic viability of its farming community.