Farming systems research: purpose, history and impact in New Zealand hill country


  • D.R. Stevens
  • M.J. Casey
  • K.A. Cousins


A review of the literature accessed 234 papers that referenced farm or farming systems research in New Zealand hill country. These were categorised into resource allocation/productivity, modelling, farm studies and sociology. Sociology was further categorised into social, cultural, resilience, policy and regulation, and system behaviour and change. Farming systems research developed over the 5 decades studied from 9 papers in 1960-1975, to a peak of 60 papers during the 1986-1995 decade. The number of papers accessed during the latest decade, 2006-2015, was 57. The focus of research has changed significantly from an initial emphasis on biophysical processes and productivity, peaking in the 1976-1985 decade and then tapering off. This provided data for the development of models that could generate many more comparisons at lower cost. Modelling of the biophysical farm and economic outcomes has been steady through the decades from 1986 to present. The impacts of policy and regulation have featured strongly in the 1986-1995 decade after agricultural deregulation, and again in the 2006-2015 decade as consumer and societal concerns about the environment have emerged. Resilience of the farming system, encompassing production, economic, social and environmental trade-offs, has emerged as a topic being most prevalent in the most recent decade from 2006-2015. The discipline of farm systems research has also matured over this time as a greater range of research techniques, over a wider range of subject matter have been applied. An evolution of the discipline has also seen the integration of the principles of complex adaptive systems into the work. Keywords: cultural, economic, environmental, farm systems, modelling, policy, production, regulation, resilience, social






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