Guidelines to design models assessing agricultural sustainability, based upon feedbacks from the DEXi decision support system

Damien Craheix, Jacques Eric Bergez, Frédérique Angevin, Christian Bockstaller, Marko Bohanec, Bruno Colomb, Thierry Doré, Gabriele Fortino, Laurence Guichard, Elise Pelzer, Antoine Méssean, Raymond Reau, Walid Sadok

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


New agricultural systems are required to satisfy societal expectations such as higher quantity and quality of agricultural products, reducing environmental impacts, and more jobs. However, identifying and implementing more suitable agricultural systems is difficult due to conflicting objectives and to the wide diversity of scientific disciplines required to solve agricultural issues. Therefore, designing models to assess the sustainability of agricultural systems requires multi-criteria decision aid methods. The French agronomist community has recently developed 11 hierarchical and qualitative models to assess sustainability using the DEXi decision aid software. Here, we give guidelines to help designers to build their own specific models. First, we present the principles and applications of the DEXi software. Then, we provide guidance on the following steps of model designing: (1) initial analysis and planning of the design process, (2) selection and hierarchy of sustainability criteria, (3) indicator selection and building, (4) parameterization, (5) evaluation, and (6) model dissemination and uses. We then discuss advantages and drawbacks of this kind of modeling formalism, the role of a participatory approach, and the main properties to consider during the design process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1431-1447
Number of pages17
JournalAgronomy for Sustainable Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, INRA and Springer-Verlag France.


  • Ex post/ex ante assessment
  • Integrative evaluation
  • Multi-attribute
  • Participatory research
  • Problem finding
  • Problem solving


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