18 Low intensity cropping

At the forefront in terms of sustainable low-input agriculture is an increase in the adoption of organic farming, pesticide-free production practices, a widespread use of pulse crops, an increase in forage/pastures, and zero/reduced tillage (e.g. permaculture). Sustainable cropping integrates three main goals--environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity.

The analysis of traditional land-use systems is important for understanding the functioning of such systems and, additionally, can provide guidelines for conservation management through the design of new low intensity land-use systems. This is true with respect to the following principles of low traditional land use.

Principle of multiple uses:
· traditional land-use systems optimize resource use and minimize risks through polyculture and other forms of multiple uses. Another important aspect of historical cultural landscapes has always been the interaction between public, common, and private land-use. The extensive use of common lands (forests, heathlands, grasslands, marshes) has been extremely important for biodiversity in northwest Europe and has changed a lot over the centuries, due to changes in agricultural systems, economy and common rights.

Principle of rotational uses:
· in traditional systems land-use is intended to meet individual needs more than to maximize economic profit. Therefore traditional land-use systems involve numerous uses that are spatially and temporally differentiated, but applied on the whole landscape. This leads to a discontinuous change between periods of human impact and periods of regeneration.

Principle of recycling:
· in traditional land-use, external inputs of agrochemicals or fodder are low. Nutrient emissions and water losses are minimized, and production wastes are recycled locally as fertilizers.

Principle of low-energy economy:
· traditional systems are stamped by a scarcity of energy and transport resources.

Principle of spatial fuzziness:
· in traditional systems different land-use structures and processes intermingle, although ecological and land-use settings provide a gradient of variation.

Principles of slow rate of change
  • long periods of relative stability, management techniques enhance the structural diversity of vegetation, the maintenance of a high proportion of semi-natural vegetation.