The term is used to mean simultaneously raising productivity, increasing resource use efficiency, and reducing environmental impacts in agriculture. In other words, you can increase dairy production (or other agriculture or aquaculture activities) and at the same time reduce the levels of GHGs emitted from each cow. Unfortunately, even though there is a lower level of emissions from each cow, the absolute levels of GHGs will rise, even substantially. This is the same position that China has used to argue that it is contributing to the reduction of GHGs by reducing the level of GHGs emitted per unit of production. It is the same concept that was used by the George W. Bush administration to avoid absolute reductions in GHG emissions.

Examples of activities that can achieve such sustainable intensification include improvement of the genetic merit of cows, extension of the grazing season, reducing beef finishing times, restructuring of the national bovine herd, improvement of N-efficiency, increased use of clover, dietary modification, use of nitrification inhibitors and minimum tillage techniques.

Some, including the UN Conferences on Trade and Development, feel that sustainable intensification will propagate the type of farming that relies on costly, polluting and non-renewable external inputs.


Some further ideas to explore on Sustainable Intensification:

 See if you can determine whether sustainable intensification is a viable way to increase dairy production and exercise some control over run-away GHG emissions.

To what extent is sustainable intensification a realizable goal and to what extent is a form of Green Washing.

Analyze the research on whether any of the examples of sustainable intensification have proven to work and at what cost and at what savings in GHG emissions.



Teagasc, Submission to Climate Bill, “Irish Agriculture, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change: opportunities, obstacles and proposed solutions,”

Ian Crute, “Challenges and opportunities for Northern European Agriculture,” Teagasc, National Tillage Conference (January 2012).

 “Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture,”

Tara Garnett, “Sustainable intensification in agriculture,” Food Climate Research Network (August 2012).








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