The Southeast Asian Universities Agroecosystem network (SUAN) has used five system properties to assess agroecosystem performance: productivity, stability, sustainability, equitability and autonomy. Assessing these properties can be useful for agricultural research and development, but the assessment is complicated by several factors. First is the multidimensional character of these properties, due to (a) independent measures of agricultural production and (b) differences in the same property at different hierarchical levels of an agroecosystem. Secondly, there are significant limitations in generalizing agroecosystem assessment from one set of environmental and social conditions to another. The SUAN network has examined trade-offs between these properties and implications of the trade-offs for agroecosystem design. Increases in productivity can be at the expense of other system properties, or they can be mutually reinforcing, depending on how the agroecosystem is organized.