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Description of research cluster NATURAL RESOURCES MANAGEMENT

The interaction of agricultural systems with natural resources at different scales is extremely complex and has been a matter of interest for different scientific disciplines since the early seventies when the club of Rome published the “Limits to Growth” study (Meadows et al. 1972). On the one hand, changes in resources use through anthropogenic activities may alter reversibly or irreversibly natural resources. On the other hand, crop production systems (except e.g. greenhouse based horticulture) depend more or less on the quality and function of natural resources. At the local level, the number of investigations and studies is overwhelming starting from very detailed investigations covering specific aspects of resource use or resource degradation by food production systems at the plot or farm level up to integrated assessment of environmental and economic aspects of food production at local (farm, village) scale. The focus of the research in our group will be on land and water resources research. Open key questions and potential future challenges are:

  1. Quantification of the impact of cropping systems on GHG emissions, soil erosion, nutrient emissions, nutrient availability and food production at the regional scale (with special emphasis on crop rotation and fallowing)
  2. Assessment of the effects of soil heterogeneity on food production and environmental impacts at the regional scale
  3. Describing and explaining spatial and temporal patterns of the intensity of land and water use in crop production (cropping intensity, crop water productivity)
  4. Can patterns of crop production and direction and magnitude of trade flows of agricultural goods better be explained when relating resources availability at the point of consumption to resources availability at the point of production (georeferencing the multidimensional footprint of human crop consumption on resources use?


Link to Research cluster “Food systems”:

In recent years, a arising major challenge is to assess resources use for crop production in an integrated way describing the intensity of the use of different resources like land, water, nutrients, labour, energy, investments, agrochemicals and genetic resources at the same time. While methods for such type of integrated assessments were developed at the farm level, applications at larger scales are still very rare and constrained by very complex resource use patterns in space and time. The research cluster “Natural resources management” contributes to the following research topics in the research cluster Food Systems

  • Is it possible to develop an integrative indicator of resource use intensity and resource use efficiency in crop production?
  • Integrated assessment of sustainability of land and water management strategies at the catchment or basin level



Meadows, D.H., Meadows, D.L., Randers, J., Behrens, W.W. (1972) : Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Rome's Project on the Predicament of Mankind, Universe Books, 205p.


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