Large production blocks of arable land

Research team:



Ing. Kristina Janečková, Ph.D.
Ing. Kateřina Černý Pixová, Ph.D.
Ing. Josef Vlasák, Ph.D.
Ing. Vratislava Janovská


Large production blocks of arable land as a source of biotope disconnectivity - reasons and consequences (ACTIVITY 1)

The target of ACTIVITY 1 is, to specify methodical principals in landscape planning (land defragmentation, territorial planning) concerning increase in landscape heterogeneity of farmland. The outcome of this project should be later implemented into the methods of making landscape modifications and territorial planning, so that these two conceptions of territorial development and landscape planning together support sustainable territory development while concentrating on preserving or increasing landscape biodiversity and stability.


State of the layout:
Homogenisation of the landscape structure resulting from an increasing proportion of extensive blocks of arable land may on the one hand create the conditions for a greater cost-effectiveness of farming, but, on the other hand, it exerts a number of negative environmental impacts (discontinuity of biotopes, loss of diversity at the eco-system level, increasing threat of erosion, lowering of aesthetic qualities of the landscape), as well as social consequences (changing character of the countryside, growth of large agricultural enterprises to the detriment of small and medium-sized farms).

The Czech Republic ranks among the countries with the most homogeneous landscape structure, but also those with the greatest fragmentation of farmland ownership as the average size of a parcel of farming land is only around 0.4 ha. Scattered small and often inaccessible parcels cease to be viable for individual farming. The owners of such parcels are essentially compelled to rent them to users running farms in the immediate vicinity. Several extreme figures bear witness to the extraordinarily unhealthy state of this segment of the Czech agriculture. Although we have amazingly more than 3 million landowners, there are only about 30,000 actual farmers. The unhealthy situation and the evolution of ownership and the users’ bonds to the soil can be demonstrated with a recently observed phenomenon which we called in a study published in the Land Use Policy journal ‘Farmland Rental Paradox’ (Sklenicka et al., 2014). For the Czech Republic we established the parcel size of 1.07 ha as the threshold for this phenomenon, which can be still classed as commercially viable. Below this threshold diminishing parcels tend to create increasing production blocks. The essence of this paradox is the fact that very small plots are rented out much more frequently.

In principle, there are two options for preventing discontinuity of biotopes caused by large production blocks:

  1. An effective form of the struggle against fragmentation is land development. It cannot reduce the number of owners but it is able to amalgamate scattered small plots into larger ones and to make those accessible. The interim results show that the land development in our country has succeeded in reducing the original number of more than six parcels to fewer than three parcels per title deed. This means doubling the average size of the parcels so their average size approaches a viable size. It follows that in most cases land developments with the current effectiveness are not able to secure most large and economically viable parcels. The consolidation (defragmentation) potential points to the possibility of a further enlargement of parcels and even tripling their size in the process of land development.
    In this sense this part of the project proposed a system for controlling the efficiency of land development as it can draw a comparison between the predicted and the calculated concentration index and the index of the actual concentration can determine whether a planner unlocked all of the consolidation potential within a given cadastre. On this basis it was proposed and debated with the State Land Office. Methodical principles for the organisation of land development in the Czech Republic are estimated to double the defragmentation effect of land development. It is possible to achieve on average a substantially larger parcel (approximately 1.6 ha) than the viable size of a parcel (approximately 1.1 ha). This should activate new farming operators and compel the existing ones to a greater extent to cultivate land on the ownership principle.
  2. The other option is the creation of rules for a farming policy that would directly reduce the extensive production blocks. This part of the project typifies the current situation in the Czech Republic and the EU; the actual principles of the agro-environmental standards have been proposed and discussed with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of the Environment, which will support reductions of the blocks, and they would be acceptable to the farmers. Of the three proposed scenarios we chose the one that proposes a reduction in the proportion of blocks of cultivated land in the categories over 50 ha, or over 100 ha to 0%. A reduction should be made by diversification of crops by establishing the maximum crop area at 50 ha. This standard could be used as a condition for the payment of an adequate portion of a direct subsidy to farmers. It is expected that after the application of this principle the blocks over 50 ha would be reduced to a level close to 0%.

    Both proposed paths lead to a goal, which is diversification of the landscape mosaic by limiting the maximum acreage per crop and the concurrent creation of conditions for more frequent land cultivation on the ownership principle. This will result in a marked strengthening of the landscape connectivity, in particular in intensive farming lands.



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