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Maintenance of biological diversity and nutrient cycling mechanisms are global principles that are common to all agroecosystems and therefore essential in the design of sustainable agricultural systems. Regional or site-specific factors include climate, soils and socio-economic preferences and conditions. These regional factors differ greatly among agroecosystems and may assume major importance in some. Research and development on global commonalities has potentially the most universal impact across agroecosystems. Interdisciplinarity, participation of farmers and a whole farm level approach are fundamental to such research and development.