Simulation of ecological, social and economic factors in agricultural systems
Historically, the motivations for decision-makers to understand the dynamics and behavior of agricultural systems were the requirements to assess and predict future food production and supply. More recently, however, it has become evident that in addition to being units of food production, agricultural systems may also either damage or provide ecological goods and social welfare. Thus, the need for enhanced environmental protection also provides a motivation for understanding the dynamics of farming systems. Historically, models aimed at simulating one component of the farm system, be it either the food production or ecological systems, have tended to ignore the social component of the farm system. This omission, which has been related partly to reductionist scientific processes and partly to the difficulty of modeling social systems, is unfortunate because the responses of people to their economic and social environment is what ultimately determines the other outputs of agricultural systems. In this paper, the progress made in modeling the individual production, ecological and social components of agricultural systems is reviewed, and modeling frameworks for their future integration are examined.