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Research article2006Peer reviewed

Emergy evaluations of Denmark and Danish agriculture: Assessing the influence of changing resource availability on the organization of agriculture and society

Rydberg T, Haden AC


This paper presents emergy evaluations of Denmark and Danish agriculture for the years 1936, 1970 and 1999. The evaluations highlight the changing relationship between agriculture and society over the time period studied. A large increase in total emergy supporting the Danish economy was observed, and the 379% rise from 1936 to 1999 in emergy use per capita, a biophysical measure of living standard, came from both imported sources and from the non-renewable storages of the biosphere. In 1936, Danish agriculture was largely based on the use of draft animals for traction and approximately 1,10,000,000 person-hours of direct labor were required for production, while in 1970 and 1999, all traction was mechanized and approximately 415,000,000 and 12 1,000,000 person-hours were required for production, respectively. Over the same period, the emergy supporting each person-hour of agricultural labor increased by 1600%. The driving forces for agricultural production shifted towards an increased reliance on commercial energy and indirect labor. Given the increase in emergy available to the Danish economy through extraction and use of domestic oil and gas and trade over the period studied, the shift in labor from agriculture to the service and manufacturing sectors represented a nation-wide re-organization for maximum empower. The evaluations also indicate that while agriculture remains an essential way for industrial economies to capture local renewable resources, given the limited net emeray yields of agricultural production, the magnitude of non-agricultural economic activity that agriculture systems can support appears limited in an economy with access to high-net-yield imported energy resources. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved


Emergy evaluation; Ecological sustainability; Empower; Industrial agriculture; Agricultural labor

Published in

Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
2006, Volume: 117, number: 2-3, pages: 145-158

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Economics and Business
    Agricultural Science
    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

    Publication identifier


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