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Report, 2008

Jordbrukets hållbarhet i ett historiskt perspektiv

Domeij, Åsa


The agricultural systems in Sweden changed rapidly during the 20th century, especially after World War II. Agriculture became mechanized, chemicalized and specialized. It has been hypothesized that the prevailing agricultural systems at the beginning of the 20th century were the most sustainable of all agricultural systems ever employed in Sweden, since they used well-developed crop rotations resulting in high yields without high inputs of fertilizers, fuel and pesticides. The purpose of this report is to investigate the sustainability of the agricultural systems of the 1930/40s compared with those of the 1990s. A comparative study was carried out at the farm level. Two farms in Sweden, producing about the same agricultural products during the 1930/40s and the 1990s, were compared. One of the farms was a dairy farm and the other produced mainly cereals. A number of environmental indicators, important from a sustainability perspective, were calculated for the farms during the two time periods. The indicators were energy ratio, net output of energy per hectare, nitrogen output:nitrogen input, net output of nitrogen per hectare, net output of phosphorus, and phosphorus output:phosphorus input. The energy ratios decreased substantially between the two time periods. On the other hand, the net delivery of nitrogen increased. The losses of nitrogen were much higher on both farms in the 1990s than during the first time period studied. On both farms the net delivery of nitrogen during the 1930/40s were more than 20 kg per hectare. This had changed in the 1990s to a loss of nitrogen of 100 kg on the dairy farm and 14 kg on the cereal-producing farm. On the cereal-producing farm the efficiency of phosphorus use (P out:P in) changed from 0:68 to 1:2. On the dairy farm it changed from 1:4 to 0:7. From a sustainability perspective, the dairy farm in the 1930/40s with its developed crop rotation and low cow density seems a viable model. Despite the fact that this farm produced milk and meat it had a positive net delivery of nitrogen and showed a high energy ratio


Sustainable agricultural systems; nutrient use efficiency; energy balance; energy ratio; farming systems; nitrogen; phosphorus

Published in

Report / Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Department of Economics
2008, number: 163
Publisher: SLU, Institutionen för ekonomi, Avdelningen för agrarhistoria

    SLU Authors

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Agricultural Science
    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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