IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

A method for constructing an index of sustainable intensification within the developed country context


  • Barnes, Andrew Peter


A number of influential policy circles have championed sustainable intensification as an approach to meet the challenge of a growing population under increasing land constraints. Various definitions exist for sustainable intensification, but most have been focused on the environment and on the needs of developing countries. Fewer studies have applied the concept to developed economies, where the pursuit of output increases is less justified, nor extended the definition to include social, economic and ethical parameters. This paper develops an approach to defining and measuring sustainable intensification on a regional basis. We test this approach using data from the Farm Account Data Network for a balanced panel of 42 beef farms within Scotland. Indicators of economic, ecosystem and social parameters are derived from this database and measured over the period 2000-2010. These variables are objectively weighted within an overall index using Positive Matrix Factorisation (PMF), a form of Factor Analysis which constrains results to positive loadings and offers less ambiguity with relation to rotation. We find little change in Scottish Beef farming with respect to Sustainable Intensification, which reflects both a policy which has not supported intensification or output expansion over this period, nor has it increased the economic, social or ecosystem sustainability over this period. We argue that regions should adopt a definition of sustainable intensification that i) is specific to the production trajectories of that region and offers clarity within estimation and measurement. The conceptualisation of sustainable intensification along these lines would, we recommend, allow key members of the food supply chain to develop specific solutions to avoid future projected problems in food production.

Suggested Citation

  • Barnes, Andrew Peter, 2012. "A method for constructing an index of sustainable intensification within the developed country context," Working Papers 131466, Scottish Agricultural College, Land Economy Research Group.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:saclwp:131466

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bohringer, Christoph & Jochem, Patrick E.P., 2007. "Measuring the immeasurable -- A survey of sustainability indices," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 1-8, June.
    2. Giuseppe Munda & Michaela Saisana, 2011. "Methodological Considerations on Regional Sustainability Assessment Based on Multicriteria and Sensitivity Analysis," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 45(2), pages 261-276.
    3. Areal, Francisco J. & Tiffin, Richard & Balcombe, Kelvin G., 2012. "Provision of environmental output within a multi-output distance function approach," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 47-54.
    4. Diaz-Balteiro, Luis & Romero, Carlos, 2004. "In search of a natural systems sustainability index," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(3), pages 401-405, July.
    5. Gómez-Limón, José A. & Sanchez-Fernandez, Gabriela, 2010. "Empirical evaluation of agricultural sustainability using composite indicators," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(5), pages 1062-1075, March.
    6. Martha, Geraldo B. & Alves, Eliseu & Contini, Elisio, 2012. "Land-saving approaches and beef production growth in Brazil," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 173-177.
    7. Thomas G. Johnson & Deborah Roberts & Timothy R. Wojan, 2010. "Model-Based Evaluation of Rural Development Policies," EuroChoices, The Agricultural Economics Society, vol. 9(1), pages 30-36, April.
    8. Byerlee, Derek & Murgai, Rinku, 2001. "Sense and sustainability revisited: the limits of total factor productivity measures of sustainable agricultural systems," Agricultural Economics, Blackwell, vol. 26(3), pages 227-236, December.
    9. Byerlee, Derek R. & Murgai, Rinku, 2001. "Sense and sustainability revisited: the limits of total factor productivity measures of sustainable agricultural systems," Agricultural Economics of Agricultural Economists, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 26(3), December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Sustainable Intensification; Scottish Cattle Farming; Positive Matrix Factorisation; Farm Management;

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ags:saclwp:131466. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (AgEcon Search). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.