Past Changes In Agricultural Land Use And Production

Data from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO, 2003) indicate that the agricultural area of Europe (EU-15 member countries) declined by about 14% between 1961 and 2000 (Figure 3.1a). During the same period, population increased by nearly 20% and the economic power expressed in GDP per capita almost tripled (World Bank, 2002). Thus, agricultural production from a decreasing area of agricultural land had to satisfy the growing demand for food that resulted from increasing population and economic wealth.

At the beginning of the 1960s productivity of important crops in Europe increased significantly mainly due to advances in agricultural technology, known as the Green Revolution. For instance, yields of cereals in the EU 15 countries increased by about 150% in the last four decades (Figure 3.1b). Rates of yield increase were higher than increases in demand and production exceeded demand in the mid eighties (Figure 3.1c). Further, increases in crop productivity resulted in substantial oversupply in the late eighties/early nineties, with levels of self-sufficiency that reached 120% and more. In response, the EU reformed the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and introduced a substantial amount of set-aside land in the Arable Area Payment Scheme. However, while reduction in agricultural land use through set-aside resulted in reduced production, crop yields further increased and the reduction in oversupply was less than expected (Figure 3.1c). With the latest CAP reform at the beginning of the new century, the EU

- Agricultural area — Population ■ - GDP per capita

- Agricultural area — Population ■ - GDP per capita

50 -1960

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-Production

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Figure 3.1 Changes in a) agricultural area, population and GDP per capita; b) harvested area, production and yields of cereals; and c) production, domestic supply and self-sufficiency for cereals in Europe (EU 15) between 1961 and 2000. Data in a) and b) represent relative changes compared to 1961 Source: Data were taken from FAO (2003) and World Bank (2002).

agricultural policy attempts to shift away from price support measures for production towards sustainable development and multifunctional agriculture. The potential implications of these policy measures for production, land use, rural development and the environment remain unclear.

Importantly, with the present study we do not aim to predict future changes in productivity and land use. Instead, alternative possible pathways of future development of important socio-economic and biophysical factors are used to explore changes in crop productivity and land use and discuss potential environmental implications.

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