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Research Themes
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Smart Agriculture

Agriculture is undergoing a revolution triggered by the exponentially increasing use of digital technologies and data-driven innovations. There is considerable interest and investment in the information that can be derived from new technologies and data for improving food production efficiencies and reducing waste in the supply chain. Information and data from real-time and automated systems can also help early detection and improve awareness of poor performance, thereby allowing farmers to make timely and informed interventions and changes in practice to enhance the efficiency and sustainability of production. The Smart Agriculture theme focuses on the new opportunities arising from recent developments in smart farming to support enhanced monitoring, measurement and management of farming systems for more sustainable food production. It aims to understand the potential usefulness of new technologies, their integration into decision support tools and how such systems may complement other or existing information for food production. Bringing together knowledge from multiple disciplines, this theme covers the aspect of economic, environmental or social enhancement of farming systems through new technologies and data, on a broad spectrum of topics including farm business, technologies, decision support tools, data processing.

Agricultural Systems Resilience and Sustainability

Climate and human-induced changes have created major challenges (e.g. water scarcity, soil degradation) for attaining sustainable agriculture throughout the world. In striving to mitigate the vicissitudes presented by the changes, new paradigms that consider the resilience of social-ecological systems have been incorporated into studies of sustainability. The key focus of resilience efforts is to address the vulnerability that communities, states, and countries currently have with regards to interactions between agricultural systems and environment. A decision in agricultural systems has implications for environment and conversely that a change in environment has consequences for agricultural practices and food provision. Decisions should therefore weight trade-offs between agricultural systems and the environment. The Social-Ecological Resilience and Sustainable Agriculture theme addresses the complexity of interactions between human and natural systems and understands the interactions with the consideration of the diversity of actors (producers, consumers and other stakeholders) and institutions (agricultural, food and environment policies).

Land Use and Land Cover Changes

Land use and land cover changes (LULCC) is one of the most visible results of human's alteration of the terrestrial ecosystem. It has a significant impact on the local, regional, and global environment. The pace, magnitude and spatial reach of LULCC are unprecedented over past decades. They have been contributed by global economic (economic integration) and environmental (climate change) changes. For example, farmers may shift from their customary crops to crops that are more adaptable have higher economic return under changing climatic conditions or with access to the global market. On the flip side, LULCC can reshape the climate and the global market. For example, land use influences the atmospheric flux of CO2 and other mass, and as land cover patterns change, these fluxes are altered. It is essential that LULCC is detected accurately, at appropriate scales and in a timely manner so as to better understand the interactions and provide improved prediction of future impacts. Research of the Land Use and Land Cover Changes theme utilizes remote sensing technology and satellite images to achieve these goals. They help uncover the magnitude, trend, and spatial pattern of land cover change at various scales. This then facilitates the understanding of mechanisms of LCLUC driven by global changes and the feedback to individuals’ land use behavior.

Agricultural Production and Provision of Ecosystem Services

There is growing recognition that agriculture faces a serious challenge not only in meeting food needs over the next few decades, but also because it will increasingly be called on to improve its contribution to (or reduce its consumption of) other ecosystem services of importance to human welfare. Just as food demand is increasing, so is the demand for water, fuelwood, feed, fiber, carbon sequestration capacity, a balanced supply of nutrients, and biodiversity. The Agricultural Production and Provision of Ecosystem Services theme aims to develop and test methods for assessing the nature and magnitude of tradeoffs faced among the provision of food and other key ecosystem services as a consequence of private production choices, public agricultural development strategies, and changes in the productivity of agricultural systems. The key research questions are: (a) Can we develop a tractable means of characterizing production systems in terms of their capacity to deliver/consume key ecosystem services (broadly defined) that contribute to human welfare (e.g., food, feed, fuel, fiber, carbon, water, biodiversity, nutrients)? (b) Can we use available meso/national scale land cover, hydrological, production, and other data to calibrate and test the predictive power of estimating the delivery capacity of ecosystem services at various scales? (c) What institutional and technical means would be appropriate for generating scenarios of production system dynamics in order to assess ecosystem output bundles, and hence tradeoffs, between such scenarios?