Assessing the intensity of temperate European agriculture at the landscape scale
Faculty of Design Sciences
European journal of agronomy: official journal of the European Society for Agronomy. - Montrouge
, p. 165-181
The intensity of agricultural production was assessed in 25 landscape test sites across temperate Europe using a standardised farmer questionnaire. The intensity indicators, nitrogen input (to arable crops and to permanent grassland), density of livestock units and number of pesticide applications (herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and retardants), were recorded and integrated into an overall intensity index. All three components were needed to appropriately characterise the intensity of agricultural management. Four hypotheses were tested. (i) A low diversity of crops is related to higher intensity. The contrary was observed, namely because diverse crop rotations contained a higher share of crops which are more demanding in terms of nitrogen and of plant protection. (ii) Intensity decreases when there is more permanent grassland. This was confirmed by our study. (iii) Large farms are managed more intensively. There was no relation between farm size and intensity. (iv) Large fields are managed more intensively. There was a tendency towards higher nitrogen input and livestock density in landscapes with larger fields but only a few of the results were statistically significant. The aggregated overall intensity index was of limited usefulness mainly because of limitations in interpretability.