Date of Award

8-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Energy Science and Engineering

Major Professor

Virginia H. Dale

Committee Members

David M. Butler, Donald G. Hodges, Keith L. Kline

Abstract

Greater sustainability in agricultural landscapes can be achieved if appropriate farm management practices are adopted in response to evolving socio-economic and environmental concerns identified by stakeholders. Development agencies, policy makers, and other stakeholders need data to support informed decisions that can improve the sustainability of agricultural landscapes. Chapter 1 reviews agricultural sustainability assessment frameworks to identify features to monitor progress towards goals for agricultural landscapes. Goals for improving sustainability vary depending on the context including local biophysical constraints on the system, social values, and economic relationships locally and globally. Chapter 2 details a process to identify themes and individual indicators for assessing sustainability in agricultural landscapes and applies the approach in a case study of Yaqui Valley, Mexico. After defining selection criteria, a set of indicators was developed in consultation with stakeholder groups. Access to data for selected indicators was a major obstacle to completing an assessment. Hence, Chapter 3 includes an analysis of selected indicators for which data were available.Better digital tools may allow farmers and other resource managers to gather site-specific information and access global databases to characterize and monitor farms and landscapes. Chapter 4 reviews apps that can support sustainable agricultural landscapes and identifies gaps in information provisioning tools to connect decision-makers to knowledge. Many apps link farmers to specific products for single solutions, such as GPS-guided farm implements or sensors within internet-of-things connectivity. Mobile apps to improve multidirectional agriculture knowledge exchange are extremely limited and poorly documented. There remains a need for apps emphasizing knowledge exchange and resource discovery to help farmers identify science-based practices that improve sustainability of agricultural landscapes. Development of a digital decision support tool requires ongoing interactions with targeted end users to clarify app performance objectives and social networking preferences, ensure reliability of scientific input and business management plans, and optimize the user experience. Together these four chapters provide recommendations and conclusions that help stakeholders work toward more sustainable agricultural landscapes through adaptive management and iterative assessment of progress.

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