Ecological-economic trade-offs of Diversified Farming Systems - A review

Research output: Journal contributionsScientific review articlesResearch


Diversified Farming (DF) Systems aim to integrate ecological and economic benefits for sustainable agriculture. DF systems can enhance ecological benefits at the farm level and therewith reduce negative environmental externalities. However, diversification may cause economic costs for the farmer. Although considering ecological-economic trade-offs is crucial for integrating biodiversity into agricultural production, ecological and economic benefits of DF practices have rarely been analyzed conjointly. Here, we synthesize published evidence provided by reviews and meta-analyses that evaluate the ecological and economic performance of single DF practices and more complex diversification bundles. Compared to non-diversified farming, DF practices provide substantially greater biodiversity and associated ecosystem services, such as pest and weed control, soil health, nutrient and water management and carbon sequestration. Overall, the ecological benefits for the farmer were partly insufficient to outbalance economic costs in the short term, even though many examples showed that DF practices have the potential to lead to higher and more stable yields, increase profitability and reduce risks in the long-term. Combined DF practices deliver highest ecological and economic benefits on the farm level. Financial instruments are needed to increase the implementation of combined DF practices to adequately reward for the ecological benefits on the farm level.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEcological Economics
Pages (from-to)251-263
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 06.2019

    Research areas

  • Ecosystems Research - Management practices, Biodiversity, Ecosystem services, Land-sharing, Sustainable agriculture, Wildlife-friendly farming