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Studies and Reports on Agriculture

The purpose of the studies included in this site is to explore the relationship between agricultural sectors, its practices and the environment.

boy with fresh cornThe first group of studies were launched in 1998 against the background of the Commission's Agenda 2000 proposals. These proposals which formed the basis for the Council agreement on Agenda 2000, provided a series of environmental openings including the establishment of environmental protection requirements and various measures within Rural Development Plans.

They should contribute to an informal debate and understanding so that the environmental relationship with agriculture can be improved.

While these studies were carried out for the Commission and the Environment DG in particular, views expressed in them are those of the authors and do not in anyway bind the services of the Commission. 

Aspects of data on diverse relationships between agriculture and the environment (Alterra, April 2014)

The main objectives  presented in the report are: 1) To examine data gaps in the field of ecologically valuable grasslands and land at risk of abandonment by gathering existing data and making recommendations on how the gaps might best be filled to underpin the present and future policy process in these fields ; 2) To gather existing data and providing best/less good practice examples in relation to the environmental impacts of afforestation in agricultural lands in order to underpin the present and future policy process and environmental policy objectives ; 3) To find and present best/less good practice examples in relation to optimal design and management of riparian buffer strips in the context of environmental policy objectives.

High Nature Value farming throughout EU-27 and its financial support under the CAP (IEEP, March 2014)

High Nature Value (HNV) farming is a relatively new concept that describes the farming systems in Europe of greatest biodiversity value. The environmental importance of HNV farming has been recognised for some time, but there has been very little research done on the agricultural and economic aspects of HNV farming or on the support provided by the Common Agricultural Policy, which is the main source of public funding for environmental management of farmland in the EU. Economic pressures have caused and continue to threaten the abandonment or intensification of large areas of HNV farmland, with irreversible loss of the associated habitats and species of European importance for biodiversity. This study is intended to contribute to the evidence base to inform the design of future EU policy for HNV farming.

Land as an environmental resource (IEEP, February 2013)

The purpose of the study is to consider the range of demands facing different types of rural land use and related ecosystem services in the EU to 2050 and, in light of these, to examine the various ways in which these demands could be met. In so doing, it considers the extent to which there is potential to increase the production of food, bioenergy and timber for material use on rural land in Europe while also meeting the EU’s environmental objectives. Alternative means of achieving these demands sustainably, including non land based alternatives, increasing imports and constraining demand are reviewed briefly.

Delivering environmental benefits through entry-level agri-environment schemes in the EU (IEEP, January 2012)

The purpose of this study was to gain better understanding of the nature and diversity of "entry level" agri-environmental schemes in the EU. This involved describing, categorising, and analysing the agri-environmental schemes which fall into this category, including specific aspects such as their objectives, the requirements to be met by participating farmers, the support network including farm advisory services etc.  which aims to make schemes a success, the payment levels, the environmental baseline which underpins them, and so on.

The climate change mitigation potential of an EU farm: towards a farm-based integrated assessment (University of Hertfordshire, October 2010)

This project focuses on the contribution of agriculture to climate change, in particular greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration. Specifically this includes the emission (sources) of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), and the sequestering of carbon in the soil and plant biomass (sinks). Although the focus is on climate change, it is important not to forget all the other goods and services that agriculture needs to provide. Sustainable agriculture is about finding a balance between environmental, economic and social objectives. Achieving one objective (i.e. climate change mitigation) should not be pursued at the expense or exclusion of other objectives. Agriculture needs to be economically viable, produce enough food, fibre and oils to equitably meet the needs of an increasing global population, and ensure that any detrimental environmental impacts are minimised to acceptable levels.

This project has developed a 'tentative' model for integrated whole farm assessment (known as IMPACCT - 'Integrated Management oPtions for Agricultural Climate Change miTigation'), with the objective of encouraging farm practices that will decrease greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration, within the context of a sustainable balance between environmental, social and economic objectives as outlined above. The model helps farmers identify practical mitigation options for their specific farm and aids policy makers in identifying practices that could be more widely encouraged across the EU. Thus, this approach follows the philosophy that the underlying science should be the same at the farm level and the policy level.

Environmental Impacts of Different Crops Rotations in the European Union (Bio Intelligence, September 2010)

The purpose of this study is to provide as complete and accurate picture as possible of crop rotation practices in the European Union and their environmental impacts, with a particular emphasis on impacts on soil, water, biodiversity, and climate change (adaptation, mitigation and carbon sequestration). The aim is to bring more precision to the debate on the environmental role of crop rotation, by providing a more consistent knowledge base, which can be used to underpin future policy debate in this area. The study also provides an assessment which specific rotations are more favourable for the environment.

Reflecting environmental land use needs into EU policy: preserving and enhancing the environmental benefits of "land services": soil sealing, biodiversity corridors, intensification/marginalisation of land use and permanent grassland (IEEP, January 2010)

The purpose of the study is to develop an approach related to the protection of land notably for food production, biodiversity, water retention and quality and soil organic matter, hereafter ‘land services, against the background of changing land use and climate change”.

Reflecting environmental land use needs into EU policy: preserving and enhancing the environmental benefits of unfarmed features on EU farmland (IEEP, September 2008)

This study provides a rationale for affording greater protection to Europe’s stock of farmland features in the future. It examines the distribution and density of features that exist across Europe’s agricultural landscapes, assesses the environmental benefits they confer and the pressures they are under, and reviews the measures currently providing a level of protection. The study is based on eight detailed case studies, GIS analysis, an analysis of national databases on features, field visits, and an extensive literature review.

Agriculture and environment in EU – 15 - the IRENA indicator report (EEA, 2005)

The project covered the 15 Member States that formed the EU in 2002. It is a response of the European Commission to the request of the Agricultural Council made in 2001 to develop a set of agri-environmental indicators for monitoring progress towards the integration of environmental concerns into the CAP. The 40 indicators produced are based on a wide range of data sources, collected at different geographical levels, and generally cover the period from 1990 to 2000. The indicators help to summarise and illustrate complex agri-environment relationships (and to communicate them to those involved in the development and implementation of policies, as well as to the broader public).

Impact of CAP measures on environmentally friendly farming systems: Status quo, analysis and recommendations. The case of organic farming (Consortium of experts, January 2004)

The objectives of this study was to investigate the relationship between environmentally  friendly farming systems – taking organic farming as a typical model as it is the most established example – and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). At the time of contractual agreements this referred to the period of Agenda 2000. However, the CAP was considered a moving target and a first evaluation of the 2003 CAP Reform was included.

During the course of the study the CAP reform 2003 was evolving and finally decided upon. Thus the scope of the study was extended to cover likely consequences of this reform.

Integrated Crop Management Systems in the EU (Agra CEAS Consulting, June 2002)

The research undertaken has sought to quantify the environmental effects of ICM at the individual system level for 10 different systems with an emphasis on plant protection (including choice of plant varieties and effects on biodiversity) as a priority. Where applicable, the research has also sought to evaluate the effects on nitrogen; erosion/soil protection; irrigation; waste management; and, crop rotation.

The scope and timescale of this project precluded primary research on the environmental impact of ICM. This aspect of the project therefore had to be conducted using research and data on existing systems. It was thus primarily based on an extensive review of available research and field trials, although where feasible the review was supplemented by limited field research.

The ten case studies selected represent a balance between the desire to examine commercial systems and the need for the environmental impact to have been assessed. It was also important to examine systems concerned with a range of crops including arable systems, fruit and vegetable production and viticulture. In order to meet these criteria, ten systems were selected for examination in five Member States as follows:

Study on Input/Output Accounting Systems on EU agricultural holdings (ADAS, DIAS, CLM - March 2001)

The objective of the project is to provide Commission services (DG agriculture and DG environment) with a critical assessment of current experiences with Input/Output Accounting at farm level. This report contributes to a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of IOA systems to make farming in Europe more environmentally friendly.

The Environmental Impact of Olive Oil Production in the European Union: Practical Options for Improving the Environmental Impact (European Forum for Nature Conservation and Pastoralism, Asociación Para el Análisis y Reforma de la Política Agro-rural, January 2001)

With a view to integrating environmental concerns into agricultural policies affecting olive production, the EC commissioned the present study with the aim of providing a detailed description of the environmental impact (problems and benefits) of olive production in the EU and producing practical suggestions of how to reduce or eliminate any identified negative environmental effects.

The contractor was requested to consider the definition of codes of “good agricultural practice” in relation to olive farming, incorporating basic environmental protection, as well as identifying environmental services which could be considered to go beyond good agricultural practice.

The Environmental Impact of Dairy Production in the EU: Practical Options for the Improvement of the Environmental Impact  (CEAS Consultants, April 2000)

This report explores the environmental impact of dairy farming in the EU and aims to provide technical advice (to DG Environment) on practical suggestions which could be easily monitored on how to reduce or eliminate any identified negative environmental effects of dairy farming. It also aims to contribute to the public debate about the environmental impact of dairy production.

The study was undertaken primarily as a desk research exercise. However, some additional interviews and discussions were held with some farm advisers, farmers, farmers’ representative organisations, government officials and researchers.

The Environmental Impacts of Irrigation in the European Union (IEEP, Polytechnical University of Madrid, University of Athens, March 2000)

The aims of this study have been to investigate  and describe the current extent of irrigation in the EU and to set this in the context of its recent development and likely future trends, taking account of economic and environmental factors (eg market trends, climate change), including a consideration of the likely availability of freshwater supplies in future; to categorise the principal systems and institutional arrangements for irrigation in different parts of the EU; to identify the range of environmental impacts (both positive and negative) of irrigation for agriculture within the EU, and to evaluate their scale, geographical distribution, and quantitative significance where possible; to illustrate this with detailed case-study examples of the most significant environmental impacts; to make an initial comparison of these findings for the EU with the known situation of irrigation in applicant countries in Central and Eastern Europe; to generate and briefly evaluate a short list of options for improving the environmental impact of irrigation within the EU and to highlight sources of more detailed information and analysis of these options.

Study in the area of maize cultivation in the European Union: practical options for the improvement of the environmental impact (in French) (Xavier Poux, January 2000)

The Environmental Impact of Arable Crop Production in the European Union: Practical Options for Improvement (Allerton Research and Educational Trust, November 1999

This report considers the implications of the Agenda 2000 reform for the integration of environmental considerations in the arable sector. It specifically addresses the past and current environmental impact of arable crop production in the European Union, and proposes practical measures to improve the environmental impact. The environmental measures are considered under the two headings of cross-compliance and measures appropriate for inclusion in agri-environment schemes.