Can nitrogen balances support the sustainability assessment?

Anna Hunkeler1, Anja Schmutz2, Carole A. Epper3

1  Department of Biology, ETH Zurich, Switzerland, 2 Institute of Agricultural Sciences, ETH Zurich, Switzerland, 3Agroscope, Switzerland

Nitrogen balances uncover the potential negative environmental impact of a certain agricultural management at a defined scale, here at the farm level, and can also illustrate where the farm is positioned in the sustainability transition pathway.

In the report, the authors explored the strengths and weaknesses of the nitrogen balance approach and data availability for Switzerland, conceptualized the nutrient balance of two contrasting farm systems and discussed them in the frame of the sustainability assessment.

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Innerhalb von vier terrestrischen Planetengrenzen ist es möglich, zehn Milliarden Menschen zu ernähren

Die Studie Feeding ten billion peole is possible within four terrestrial planetary boundaries (Gerten et al. 2020) gibt Anlass zur Hoffnung. Die Erde kann 10 Millionen Menschen ernähren, aber nicht nur mit den Methoden einer effizienten Landwirtschaft. Es braucht andere Massnahmen, damit wir die grossen Probleme von industriellen Monokulturen und Massentierhaltung überwinden, sonst sind die Ernteverluste wegen einer weiteren Überschreitung der globalen Grenzen bei den natürlichen Ressourcen unausweichlich. Die Agrarökologie wird hier eine grosse Rolle spielen.

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Viele landwirtschaftliche Subventionen in der Schweiz wirken sich negativ auf die Biodiversität aus

Um den Biodiversitätsverlust zu bremsen, finanzieren der Bund und die Kantone verschiedenen biodiversitätsfördernde Massnahmen. Mit einem Vielfachen dieser Beträge werden Aktivitäten finanziert, die Lebensräume und Arten direkt oder indirekt schädigen. Insgesamt 207 Subventionen in verschienden Bereichen sind es die ganz, teilweise oder indirekt Biodiversität schädigen. Zu dieser Schlussfolgerung kommt eine Untersuchung zusammen mit WSL und in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Forum Biodiversität, aus welcher ein Faktenblatt des SCNAT hervorgegangen ist (Gubler et al., 2020).

Darin werden im Bereich der Landwirtschaft einige Verbesserungen der Subventionspraxis vorgeschlagen, um biodiversitätsschädigende Subventionen bis 2020 zu beseitigen, schrittweise abzubauen oder umzugestalten.

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Wie können wir die politischen Rahmenbedingungen für die Reduzierung des Pestizideinsatzes verbessern?

Ein sehr umfassender Review-Artikel ist durch PSC Mitglieder zum Thema Pestizidreduzierung veröffentlicht worden: Pathways for advancing pesticide policies (Möhring et al., 2020). Die Autoren analysiseren die politischen Massnahmen, um weniger Pestizide zu verwenden und gleichzeitig die Produktion von Nahrungsmitteln sicherzustellen.

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Principles for participation in competing demands for land use

Global demand for agricultural products is competing with scarce land resources and environmental protection especially biodiversity protection and the increasing thread of shortages of water and nutrients. How can we ensure biodiversity and ecosystem protection in fragile habitats if we struggle to satisfy the demand of the world population for food, energy and housing?

Ten principles for a landscape approach to reconciling agriculture, conservation, and other competing land uses (Sayer et al., 2013) can help to guide the process of decision-making in the landscape context. These principles emphasize that we will need a people-centred approach applied at landscape scales and a focus on multifunctional landscapes. The principles in short:

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Open places: Research with biological material from abroad – International regulations and due diligence in research

The course will be held online. Registration (closes soon): https://ethz.ch/services/en/service/courses-continuing-education.html—> Choose Plant Sciences to view and register for all currently offered PSC courses.

5 & 6 November 2020

Do you work with biological material from abroad? Do you know, how to correctly proceed with access and benefit sharing, material transferagreements and other procedures?

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CALL 3 FOR PHD APPLICATIONS – DEADLINE Dec 1, 2020

Call 3 for PhD applications within the RESPONSE Doctoral Programme «to society and policy needs through plant, food and energy sciences»

RESPONSE DP is offering 8 early-stage researcher’s positions for 36 months (100%) at the interface of science and policy, as well as science and innovation at one of the three world-leading academic host organization – ETH Zurich and University of Zurich.

RESPONSE DP will train ESRs to reflect on their role as scientists in society, contributing with evidence to policymaking and to build capacities to address global challenges in the areas of sustainable food systems, sustainable energy systems and sustainable land use decisions.

For more information about RESPONSE, open positions and further steps (i.e. submit your application), have a look at:https://www.plantsciences.uzh.ch/en/research/fellowships/response.html

ETH Zurich and University of Zurich are dedicated to promoting the role of women in science, and, therefore, explicitly invites women to apply.

Following up the summer school 2018: PSC published proceedings

Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center: Proceedings of the PlantHUB Summer School 2018, Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) in Plant Sciences.

Melanie Paschke (ed.). With contributions by: Manuela Dahinden, Gregory Grin, Melanie Paschke, Christine Rösch, Daan Schuurbiers, Foteini Zampati, Camilo Chiang, Franco Conci, Claudio Cropano, Florian Cueni, Seydina Issa Diop, Daniel Grogg, Manuel Nolte, Ina Schlathölter, Giacomo Potente and Maximilian Vogt.

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The laboratory is in many ways still a protected space, in which (especially young) researchers are effectively shielded from outside pressures by their lab directors (Rip, 2003). The challenge for educational programs that aim to raise the level of attention to RRI issues is, therefore, to demonstrate the added value of social and ethical reflection for the researcher’s own work.

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How can biodiversity-ecosystem function research (BEF) be used to inform ecosystem managers and policy-makers?

Ecosystem researchers currently do different types of BEF research. How can these studies be used in policymaking? A recent analysis with involvement of Prof. Nina Buchmann from ETH Zurich and member of PSC came up with recommendations:

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Engaging in a Science and Policy Dialogue