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The Farm as a Thermodynamic System: Implications of the Maximum Power Principle

Carl F. Jordan ()
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Carl F. Jordan: University of Georgia

Biophysical Economics and Resource Quality, 2016, vol. 1, issue 2, 1-14

Abstract: Abstract A farm can be considered a thermodynamic system that uses exosomatic energy (fertilizers and pesticides) to facilitate crop yield derived from endosomatic (photosynthetically derived) energy. Because farms are thermodynamic systems, they are subject to the Maximum Power Principle. This means that farmers can maximize yield to increase economic competitiveness or maximize exosomatic energy use efficiency to minimize pollution, but they cannot do both at the same time. To maintain competitiveness, farmers usually choose to maximize yield, a decision that often results in degradation of the environmental commons. Farms are self-organizing systems in that yield is converted to dollars, some of which the farmer uses to manage cropping systems embedded in the farming system. If management of an industrial cropping system is modified to use nature’s services, energy use efficiency of the farm increases and pollution is reduced.

Keywords: Maximum Power Principle; Energy use efficiency; Industrial agriculture; Sustainable agriculture; Services of nature (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2016
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DOI: 10.1007/s41247-016-0010-z

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