WP2 Farm typology and inventory of Current Management Practices

This workpackage develops a European farm typology based on farm characteristics and agro-ecological zones. It includes the inventory of current soil management and degradation issues associated with the major farm types.

Development of a European farm typology based on farm characteristics and agro-ecological zones. Inventory of associated current soil management and degradation issues.

Datasets on biophysical variables, farming systems, crops and livestock, and socio-economic aspects are derived from the integrated pan-European data base from the SEAMLESS project (FP6). The typologies as developed in that project, assist in simplifying this vast amount of information into coherent groups that share the same characteristics (FTZ Units). For such FTZ Units, the main soil degradation problems are inventoried. This is done first in detail for a limited number of FTZ Units of the participant countries. Next, extrapolations at a coarser level are made to all FTZ Units in the participant countries. Inventories are made of the main standard (current) management options, and of associated soil degradation problems. The inventories are linked to the surveys executed in WP4.

In September 2013 the final report of WP2 was submitted to the European Commission. The report describes current management practices (CMPs) and related soil degradation problems for the identified major FTZs. This typology is further used in Catch-C to relate the long-term experiments (LTEs) of WP3 with their geographical target areas and to select study areas for surveys of farmer perceptions on soil management in WP4. Since the developed topology covers almost the entire EU27 (with limited data for Romania, Croatia and Slovenia), it also offers a data set for projects beyond Catch-C.

In order to identify the major farm-type zones (FTZs), typical farming systems (FT) from FADN and agri-environmental zonation (AEZ) are combined. In AEZ homogenous spatial mapping units on the basis of slope, soil texture and climate zonation are aggregated, while FTs include information on farm specialisation and land use. CMPs have been identified for the selected major FTZs in each of the participant countries by means of interviews with local extension workers. Based on expert interviews and further country reports on soil degradation problems, main soil degradation problems in the major FTZs were compiled and could be related to the CMPs.

Main conclusions on CMPs concerning arable farming in the eight participant countries are:

(a) green manures are applied on average on 20% of the total area,
(b) conventional tillage on 70%, non-inversion tillage on 30%, minimum tillage is hardly  applied,
(c) animal slurry is applied on the main part  (60 to 90%9 of the total area in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands and on a limited part (<20%) on FTZs in the other CATCH-C countries and
(d) crop residues are incorporated on average in half of the total area.

Main conclusions on CMPs concerning livestock farming are:

(a) green manures are applied on a small part (i.e. 0 to 20%) of the total area,
(b) conventional tillage is
practisedon 85%, non-inversion tillage on 15% and minimum tillage is practically not applied,
(c) animal slurry is applied on the main part (>80%) of the total area on FTZs in all CATCH-C countries except for Poland where slurry is applied on less than 20%,
(d) on FTZs in Belgium and the Netherlands  mainly  animal slurry is applied, on FTZs in Austria, France and Italy  both animal slurry and farm yard manure are applied, and in Poland mainly farm yard manure is applied.

Differences between FTZs can be explained from differences in farm type and farming intensity as well as from the cropping system and its biophysical conditions. However, it may be assume that there are regional and national differences in farm structure and land ownership, historical development of agricultural sectors, protection of the environment and landscape, and main recommendations by agricultural extension services that may cause differences between FTZs in the CMPs.

Water erosion, soil contamination, sub-soil compaction and decrease in soil organic matter are problems in most countries. Salinisation and desertification are mainly of importance in southern Europe. Low soil fertility is a problem in extensively managed areas in Spain. Floods and land-slides do occur in the mountainous areas of France and Italy. Soil acidification can be problematic in France and Poland and mainly with soils developed from acidic parent material. These problems can be partly explained from current soil management, but often too from unmanageable factors like landscape, parent material and location. The latter problems require governmental actions at the regional and/or national scale, such as improved water management, forest protection, and construction works. Soil degradation problems that can be reduced by improving soil management on the farm level are mainly sub-soil compaction, decrease in soil organic matter, contamination with nutrients and pesticides and erosion.

CMPs that are mainly responsible for the different soil degradation problems have been derived for each of the FTZs. These practices appear to be the common practices in intensive and conventional farming with limited applications of organic matter and crop residues to the soil, monoculture, insufficient coverage of the soil, intensive tillage, use of heavy machinery with high wheel loads,  high application levels of fertilisers and biocides, short rotations with intensive cultivation of tuber and root crops and high animal densities.

Further, an overview of ways to improve soil management practices to limit the current soil degradation problems is given: (a) Water and wind erosion can be limited by reduced tillage, increase of organic matter input into the soil and better field coverage, (b) Contamination can be limited by fertiliser applications that are more adapted to crop demands and weather conditions, by better informed use of biocides and improved plant protection and by decreased animal density and thus manure production and (c) Compaction can be limited by reduction of wheel loads, use of low pressure tires, controlled traffic farming and reduced stocking densities.

From this study mainly quantitative relationships can be derived due to both, the complex interactions between agri-environmental conditions and farm characteristics with specific current and historical management and input level and the approach used for data collection. Within WP3, more quantitative information about Best Management Practices (BMPs) and soil quality will be derived, whereas in WP4 farm compatibility with BMPs will be investigated.

For more information the Deliverable D2.242 A typology of farming systems is available for download.
WP2 is led by Martin van Ittersum.