Operationalizing sustainability: exploring options for environmentally friendly flower bulb production systems.

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Current production systems for flower bulbs in the Netherlands employ considerable quantities of pesticides and nutrients per unit area. In 1993, an association of growers and environmentalists set out to design new farming systems that meet environmental objectives in addition to economic objectives. To support the design process, an explorative study was carried out to bring together the fragmented agronomic information and to assess agro-technical options for sustainable flower bulb production with a time horizon of 10 to 15 years. Crop and inter-crop management systems representing the agro-technical components of sustainability at the farm level, were generated with a computer model by systematically varying four system characteristics, three of which represented strategic and tactical aspects of crop protection. Subjective components, one economic and two environmental objectives and various socio-economic constraints, were identified in interaction with the stakeholders. Interactive multiple goal linear programming was used to optimize the objectives at the farm level and determine the exchange value of the economic objective in terms of the environmental objectives. Calculations were carried out for two reference farm types. The results revealed that the negative impact of environment-oriented production systems on farm gross margin is importantly mitigated by strategic choices at the farm level, such as renting land and allowing a soil health improving crop, even though of low gross margin, into the rotation. In contrast, the a priori attention of the growers was focused on improving tactical pest and nutrient management at the crop level, the effect of which on farm gross margin is constrained by the strategic choices. Sensitivity analyses highlighted the need for more insight into the ecology of soil-borne growth reducing factors and their effect on crop yield. The paper describes the approach used, reports results and discusses the usefulness of the approach for the stakeholders and for disciplinary crop protection research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-234
JournalEuropean Journal of Plant Pathology
Publication statusPublished - 1997


  • crop protection
  • farm economics
  • farming systems
  • interactive multiple goal linear programming
  • learning processes
  • nutrient management


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