Agricultural research and education in Europe has played a major role in the advancement of agriculture and land use during the last century. The scientific basis of agriculture has been strengthened and the use of insight, knowledge and expertise in farmers' fields is widely adopted. As a result of this development, productivity per hectare, efficiency and efficacy of use of external inputs has increased considerably. During the last decades, objectives of agriculture and land use have broadened and this illustrates the need for further ecotechnological knowledge and insight to reach, in a balanced way, multiple goals of agriculture, productivity, protection of the environment, nature conservation and development. Research and education have to be developed in that direction to make agricultural science and technology more responsive to changing societal demands. The disciplinary scientific quality and depth should develop in tandem with integrating problem-oriented multidisciplinary research activities. Systems approaches may serve as an instrument to that goal.