Reintegration Of Crop-Livestock Systems In Europe: An Overview

Antonius G.T. Schut, Emily C. Cooledge, Marc Moraine, Gerrie W.J.Van De Ven, Davey L. Jones, David R. Chadwick

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Ongoing specialization of crop and livestock systems provides socioeconomic benefits to the farmer but has led to greater externalization of environmental costs when compared to mixed farming systems. Better integration of crop and livestock systems offers great potential to rebalance the economic and environmental trade-offs in both systems. The aims of this study were to analyze changes in farm structure and review and evaluate the potential for reintegrating specialized intensive crop and livestock systems, with specific emphasis on identifying the co-benefits and barriers to reintegration. Historically, animals were essential to recycle nutrients in the farming system but this became less important with the availability of synthetic fertilisers. Although mixed farm systems can be economically attractive, benefits of scale combined with socio-economic factors have resulted in on-farm and regional specialization with negative environmental impacts. Reintegration is therefore needed to reduce nutrient surpluses at farm, regional and national levels, and to improve soil quality in intensive cropping systems. Reintegration offers practicaland cost-effective options to widen crop rotations and promotes the use of organic inputs and associated benefits, reducing dependency on synthetic fertilisers, biocides and manure processing costs. Circular agriculture goes beyond manure management and requires adaptation of both food production and consumption patterns, matching local capacity to produce with food demand. Consequently, feed transport, greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient surpluses and nutrient losses to the environment can be reduced. It is concluded that reintegration of specialized farms within a region can provide benefits to farmers but may also lead to further intensification of land use. New approaches within a food system context offer alternatives for reintegration, but require strong policy incentives which show clear, tangible and lasting benefits for farmers, the environment and the wider community

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-129
Number of pages19
JournalFrontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


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