The concept of the sustainable development of agricultural production marked the beginning of a new era in agriculture worldwide. The term sustainability was first interpreted primarily as the sustainability of the environment, due to the ever more serious problems experienced in this connection on a global scale. In searching for a solution, however, focus shifted to a complex approach to sustainable development. It became clear that in addition to the sustainability of the environment, a long-term solution could only be achieved if economic and social sustainability was also ensured. This is particularly true of agriculture, since the existing problems cannot be solved purely on the basis of environmental considerations. Only the comprehensive handling of ecological, economic and social challenges can produce a satisfactory answer to the questions involved in sustainable development. This will necessarily mean a change in the tasks facing agriculture, which will be responsible for more numerous, more varied functions than previously. If these new tasks are to be successfully performed, new technological systems will need to be elaborated, requiring an acceleration of research and development throughout the world.
The importance and necessity of long-term field experiments lie in the fact that long-term effects can only be studied reliably over several decades. The agronomic advances made in recent decades, based on chemicals and genetic gains, can be measured using long-term data, which will also be important in the future. Nutrient balances can be estimated reliably from the results of these experiments. The effect of climate change can be estimated by comparing long-term data from different locations. Long-term databases also form the background for computer models, designed to promote the sustainable development of agriculture and the environment.
agricultural production is a basic, traditional constituent of the Hungarian economy. An importance question nowadays is how the land can be cultivated and agricultural goods produced under the conditions of sustainable development. From the plant nutrition point of view the establishment of an environment-friendly fertilizer recommendation system is essential if sustainable development is to be achieved. Most experts agree that this type of fertilizer recommendation system is able to fulfil the growing demands of a growing population, while keeping the environment in good condition for the next generations. The experts also agree that fertilizer application could not be replaced widely with organic farming alone. An environmentally friendly fertilizer recommendation system has to be sensitive enough to respond to the effects of different conditions, e.g. great spatial variability of soil characteristics, mosaic-like soil cover, climate, crop rotation practices, soil nutrient supply, etc. There was a dramatic change in Hungarian agriculture at the beginning of the 90s, as the result of which the use of fertilizers decreased sharply for several reasons, e.g. privatization, changes in ownership, withdrawal of state subsidies for mineral fertilizers, drought, etc. Both Hungarian agriculture and the country as a whole is now facing two challenges, i.e. to overcome the economic difficulties and to complete the final phase of preparations to join the EU. Land use change scenarios have proved that the natural endowments of Hungary are suitable for integrating agricultural production with environmental and landscape protection and nature conservation.