Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences - Biogeography

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences | Geography Department | Biogeography | News | Agricultural intensification trends differed substantially between Europe's East and West since the 1990s.

Agricultural intensification trends differed substantially between Europe's East and West since the 1990s.

Patterns of yield and nitrogen application trends for six crop-type groups in the EU between 1990 and 2007 reveals marked spatial differences with high intensity levels particularly in Western and Central Europe. Soil quality, labor productivity, and climate were identified as main determinants for these trends.

Drivers of changes in agricultural intensity in Europe

 

Christian Levers Van Butsic Peter H. Verburg Daniel Müller | Tobias Kuemmerle

 

The global demand for agricultural products will increase in the 21st century, unless major transformations in consumptive behaviour occur. To a large extent, production increases in agriculture will depend on intensifying existing agricultural systems. Yet, our understanding of what determines the spatial pat-terns of agricultural intensity and changes therein is limited. Here, we analysed agricultural intensity changes in Europe focussing on yields and fertiliser application for six major crop-type groups for the period 1990–2007. We applied random effects panel regressions to analyse the spatial determinants of intensity changes using a suite of biophysical and socio-economic variables. We found that yields increased and mineral nitrogen application decreased by approximately 10%, suggesting a decoupling of changes in output and input intensity in Europe’s agricultural systems. Yields and nitrogen application across crop-type groups were particularly high in Western and Central Europe, whereas Eastern Europe was characterised by lower yields and nitrogen application. We also found strong sub-national variation in intensity levels in respect to crop-type groups and indicators. Higher yields were typically related to higher fertilisation, high soil quality, less growing degree days, and high labour productivity. Higher nitrogen application rates, in turn, were related to high soil water and carbon contents, and high labour productivity. Our study provides insights into broad-scale agricultural intensity patterns in Europe that allow for identifying trade-offs between agriculture and the environment, as well as entry points for regionalised, targeted policy making towards a more sustainable management of Europe land systems.

 

Link to the manuscript: DOI:10.1016/j.landusepol.2016.08.013

Citation: Levers, C., Butsic, V., Verburg, P.H., Müller, D. & Kuemmerle, T., 2016. Drivers of changes in agricultural intensity in Europe. Land Use Policy 58, 380-393.