Modern agriculture is a major source of diverse environmental impacts, including greenhouse gas emissions, land-use change, species loss, as well as soil and water pollution, degradation and loss (Campbell et al., 2017). The currently dominant agricultural systems are environmentally unsustainable and there is a need for evidence how to move forward and identify plausible opportunities to foster a transformation. Consequently, agriculture plays a pivotal role in current initiatives aiming to transform society into a sustainable one, e.g. the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The key questions in this context are:

  • How can the transformation to a more environmentally sustainable agriculture be facilitated?
  • What are the main leverage points for such a transformation?

These are also the overarching question of the graduate school AGRI-TRANSFORM. The graduate school focuses on leverage points for transforming agricultural policies in the geographic context of Germany and the European Union.

The specific research questions tackled within AGRI-TRANSFORM include (see also Figure below): What drives the land-use related decisions and behaviour of relevant actors and how do they respond to different types of interventions? What will be the environmental implications of novel trends such as digitalization and bioeconomy in transforming agriculture? Do digitalization and novel technological solutions offer opportunities for improved regulation? How do external factors (like droughts or price interventions by regulators) in the bioeconomy drive different pathways of biomaterial use, and do these factors have an impact on environmentally sound agriculture? How can the resilience of modern agricultural systems to extreme weather events be fostered, so as to avoid unnecessary and inefficient losses?

Leverage points for a more environmental-friendly agriculture

AGRI-TRANSFORM builds upon and deepens the links between different disciplines, also directly within the individual theses, e.g. by combining behavioural science and political science, system analysis and economics or economics and hydrological modelling. It can be seen as a contribution from the Research Unit “Environment and Society” to creating a UFZ agri-environmental research hub.