MASC : Multi-attribute assessment of the Sustainability of Cropping systems

Last modified by mbenezit on 2014/10/29 18:02

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Frédérique Angevin, Jacques-Eric Bergez, Christian Bockstaller, Bruno Colomb, Damien Craheix, Thierry Doré, Laurence Guichard, Antoine Messéan, Raymond Reau, Walid Sadok

The MASC tool (for Multi-attribute Assessment of the Sustainability of Cropping systems) was created to assess the contribution of cropping systems to sustainability. This tool is based on the assessment of the three dimensions of sustainability: economic, environmental and social. Thirty-nine (39) criteria were selected to reflect the performances of cash cropping systems in Western Europe. To assess a cropping system, you have to determine each basic criterion in a qualitative way, according to a judgment scale of 3 to 5 classes. MASC then aggregates those criteria step by step, following a tree. This tree starts with the 39 basic criteria (leaves) and can go progressively to the roots to give at the end an overall assessment of the cropping system contribution to sustainability. The criteria aggregation is done with “if-then” decision rules.

Compared to other assessment tools, MASC has several benefits. This tool helps users to have a judgment on how their cropping system answers to sustainability objectives. It gives a “technical view” of sustainability thanks to criteria determined with a precise description of technical practices (planned or already implemented). It allows some flexibility to consider specific local issues. It thus drives the user to precise his vision of sustainability. On a practical aspect, MASC is easy to use and educational, as the entire running is transparent for the user. Those characteristics make it a tool adapted for researchers, as well as for professionals with a will to assess in a multi-dimension way tracks to change their practices.

The first version of MASC, made in the project DISCOTECH1 in 2008 (financed by ANR2), was diffused to a limited number of partners for 2 years. Those users worked in research field and agriculture development, and tested the tool in real conditions. Following the test period and with the help of GIS GC HP2E, a second version of the tool was developed. This was done with the drawbacks from first users, results from lately developed sensibility analysis and opinions of several experts to improve the assessment mode of criteria.

The assessment mode of MASC is not normative and indicators to assess basic criteria can be chosen by the user depending on their accuracy, context study and available data. Several softwares are now available to calculate at a cropping system scale some indicators based on technical practices and local context (non exhaustive list):

  • CRITER®: quantitative assessment of a set of economic, social and environmental criteria to qualify the contribution of cropping system to sustainability. CRITER was developed specifically to calculate quantitative indicators proposed by MASC, on the contrary to following tools.

Other softwares which could be used to determine some criteria of MASC 2.0:

  • ARTHUR:  Assessment of potential risks of pesticide transfers into the environment
  • EGES®: Assessment of green house gas emissions, energy consumption and energetic efficiency
  • INDIGO®: Assessment of the cropping system impacts on the environment (water, soil, air, non-renewable resources, etc)
  • MERLIN: Assessment of nitrate leaching risks
  • SYSTERRE®: Assessment of technical, economic and environmental performances of farms (at several scales: field, soil, cropping system, farm)
  • ...

Application fields and use conditions of those different tools are available on the website of the Platform for the Agri-environmental assessment (PLAGE).

The tool MASC was built by a research and teaching group gathering persons from 4 units of INRA and superior education institutions (AgroParisTech, INPL, INPT): Agronomie and Eco-Innov units from Grignon, UMR AGIR from Toulouse and LAE from Nancy-Colmar. An APP was signed in January 2008 for the first version (property of INRA/AgroParisTech), renewed in October 2011 for the actual version 2.0 (N° IDDN.FR.001.040014.001.R.P.2008.000.30100, obtained on the 05/10/2011), property of members of GIS GC-HP2E.

The use of the 2.0 version is done under the licence CeCILL-C, the download is considered as the acceptance of the licence. 

MASC can not be commercially used without having previously contacted and obtained the agreement of the owners of the DEXI software. The licence CeCill-C allows to use MASC 2.0 without limits under your own responsibility. Designers and owners of MASC V2.0 can not be hold responsible for obtained results. It is precised that potential use of MASC V2.0 in developing softwares will have to follow conditions previously mentioned in the CeCILL-C licence.
The download is considered as the acceptance of the

Before download the MASC package, thank you to inform the tool designers of your assessment project with MASC by sending an e-mail to the following address: masc (at)

You can also use this e-mail address to:

  • Let the designers know of your demarche and assessment results with MASC,
  • Propose improvements for the tool and the linked documents,
  • Ask comprehension questions on the implementation of the tool.

1DISCOTECH : Innovative tools for design and assessment of technical systems (DISpositifs innovants pour la COnception et l'évaluation des systèmes TECHniques)
2ANR : National agency for research (Agence Nationale de la Recherche)
3GIS GC HP2E : Scientific gathering for cash crops with high economic and environmental performances (Groupement d’Intérêt Scientifique Grande Culture à Hautes Performances Économiques et Environnementales)
4marko.bohanec (at)

Documents to download

Documents linked to the model use :

Computer files linked to the model MASC 2.0:

To open it, it is necessary to download previously the IZI-Eval interface [french and english] developed specifically for the multi-criteria assessment of cropping systems (click here) or to use the generic version of DEXI software [english] on the following link:

To present MASC and use principles in the frame of a project on the assessment of cropping systems:

See also

Sadok W., Angevin F., Bergez J.-E., Bockstaller C., Colomb B., Guichard L., Reau R., Doré T. (2008). Ex ante assessment of the sustainability of alternative cropping systems: implications for using multi-criteria decision aid methods. A review, Agron. Sustain. Dev. 28, 163-174. 

Sadok W., Angevin F., Bergez J.E., Bockstaller C., Colomb B., Guichard L., Reau R., Messéan A., Doré T. (2009) MASC: a qualitative multi attribute decision model for ex ante assessment of the sustainability of cropping systems. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 29, 447-461.
Actes du séminaire MASC : le modèle MASC et ses utilisations pour l’évaluation de la durabilité des Systèmes de culture, 9-10 mars 2010, Paris, 29p. (pdf).
Craheix D., Angevin F., Bergez J.E., Bockstaller C., Colomb B., Guichard L., Reau R., Doré T., 2011. MASC 2.0, un outil d’évaluation multicritère pour estimer la contribution des systèmes de culture au développement durable. Innovations Agronomiques, 20, 35-48.

Craheix D., Angevin F., Bergez J.-E., Bockstaller C.,Colomb B.,Guichard L., Omon B. Reau R., Doré T., 2012. Multicriteria assessment of the sustainability of cropping systems: A case study of farmer involvement using the MASC model. Xth European IFSA Symposium, 1-4 July 2012, Aarhus, Danemark, 8p.

Craheix et al., 2011 : MASC, a model to assess the sustainability of cropping systems: taking advantage of feedback from the first users (poster / article)

PEPITES, 2013, L’agriculture de conservation : un éclairage par la recherche : Évaluation multicritère de systèmes en agriculture de conservation


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Created by Damien Craheix on 2012/06/22 10:25
Translated into en by Damien Craheix on 2014/03/18 17:56
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