What is sustainable agriculture? A systematic review

Research output: Journal contributionsScientific review articlesResearch


The idea of a sustainable agriculture has gained prominence since the publication of the Brundtland Report in 1987. Yet, the concept of sustainable agriculture is very vague and ambiguous in its meaning, which renders its use and implementation extremely difficult. In this systematic review paper, we aim to advance understandings of sustainable agriculture from a social science and governance perspective by identifying areas of complementarity and concern between emerging definitions of sustainable agriculture. For this purpose, we conducted a structured literature review in combination with a cluster analysis in order to (1) identify the overall ideas and aspects associated with sustainable agriculture; (2) detect patterns and differences in how these ideas and aspects are adopted or applied; (3) evaluate how the different ideas and aspects of sustainable agriculture are combined in the scientific debate, and assess whether these different conceptions match with those that have been claimed to exist in the debate. There are two valuable outcomes from this research. The first is a framework for understanding the components of sustainable agriculture. The second outcome is in highlighting ways for actors involved with sustainable agriculture to deal with the complexity and multiplicity of this concept in a constructive manner.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)7833-7865
Number of pages33
Publication statusPublished - 18.06.2015

    Research areas

  • Sustainability Science - Agriculture, sustainable agriculture, qualitative content analysis, cluster analysis, grey literature, fields of action