Presentation of MASC

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

Multi-attribute assessment of the Sustainability of Cropping systems.

The MASC tool (Multi-attribute Assessment of the Sustainability of Cropping Systems) was designed to assess the contribution of cropping systems to sustainable development. This tool is based on an evaluation of the three dimensions usually distinguished in sustainability (economic, social, and environmental) through 39 criteria selected to reflect the performance of field crop systems in Western Europe. To evaluate a cropping system, each of the basic criteria that characterize it must be filled in qualitatively, using a judgment scale of 3 to 5 classes. MASC then performs a progressive aggregation of the criteria, according to a "tree" which, starting from 39 elementary criteria, allows to go up progressively to have a global evaluation of the contribution of the cropping systems to sustainable development. The aggregation of the criteria is done using "if-then" decision rules.

Compared to existing assessment tools at the cropping system level, MASC has several advantages. This tool helps its users to judge the degree of satisfaction of the sustainability objectives assigned to the cropping systems, in the different economic, social and agro-environmental domains considered. It gives a "technical" content to sustainable development thanks to evaluation criteria based on a detailed description of agricultural practices (planned or already implemented). Then, by allowing a certain flexibility in the apprehension of sustainable development by its user (to take into account in particular the weight of local issues), it obliges the latter to specify his vision of sustainability. From a practical point of view, MASC is easy to use and educational, since the whole operation is transparent for the user. These characteristics make it a suitable tool for researchers, but also for professionals wishing to evaluate in a multi-dimensional way the ways to transform their practices.

The first version of MASC, developed in the framework of the DISCOTECH1 supported by the ANR2, was released in 2008 for a limited period of two years during which it was tested by various user groups from the world of agricultural research and development. Following this real-life testing phase and thanks to the support of the GIS GC HP2E3, a second version of the model was developed. This version was developed using feedback from the first users, the results of sensitivity analysis tools recently developed for this type of model, and the opinions of several experts to improve the way the criteria are evaluated.

Since the evaluation method for MASC criteria is not prescriptive, the indicators used to inform them can be chosen by the user according to their precision, the context of the study and the available data. Currently, several software programs are available to calculate certain indicators at the scale of the cropping system based on agricultural practices and the context (non-exhaustive list):

  • CRITER®: Quantitative evaluation of a set of economic, social and environmental criteria intended to qualify the contribution to sustainable development of cropping systems. CRITER® has been specifically developed to calculate all the quantitative indicators proposed in MASC, which the other software below do not do.

Other software that can be used to fill in some of the MASC 2.0 criteria:

  • ARTHUR : Evaluation of the potential risks of transferring phytosanitary active substances to the environment
  • EGES® : Evaluation of greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption and energy efficiency
  • INDIGO®: Evaluation of the environmental impacts of cropping systems (water, soil, air, non-renewable resources, etc.)
  • MERLIN: Assessment of the risk of nitrate leaching
  • SYSTERRE®: Evaluation of the technical, economic and environmental performance of crop production on a field crop or mixed crop-livestock farm (several scales: plot, soil, cropping system, farm).

The fields of application and the terms of availability of these different software are specified on the RMT Erytage website.

The MASC software was built by a group of researchers and teachers from four units involving INRAE and higher education institutions (AgroParisTech, INPL, INPT): Agronomy and Eco-Innov units from Grignon, UMR AGIR from Toulouse and LAE from Nancy-Colmar. It has been registered at the APP in January 2008 under its version 1.0 (property INRAE/Agroparistech), renewed in October 2011 under its current version 2.0 (N° IDDN.FR.001.040014.001.R.P.2008.000.30100, attributed on 05/10/2011), version which is property of the members of GIS GC-HP2E.

The use of version 2.0 is done under the CeCILL-C license. The download is considered as acceptance of the license. MASC cannot be used commercially without contacting the owners of the DEXi software and obtaining their agreement4. The CeCILL-C license allows you to use MASC V2.0 without limitation under your own responsibility, the designers and owners of MASC V2.0 not being held responsible for the results obtained. It is specified that the possible reuses of MASC V2.0 in software developments must follow the conditions stated in the CeCILL-C license.


1 DISCOTECH : Innovative devices for the design and evaluation of technical systems

2 ANR : Agence Nationale de la Recherche

3 GIS GC HP2E : Groupement d’Intérêt Scientifique Grande Culture à Hautes Performances Économiques et Environnementales

4 marko.bohanec (at)

Modification date : 09 May 2023 | Publication date : 08 June 2021 | Redactor : MEANS