A panel of soil, climate and land evaluation experts reviewed a set of land evaluation methods in order to elaborate an approach which can support the identification of natural constraints to agriculture in the EU27. The driver for this exercise is Article 50.3 of ECRegulation 1698/2005 calling for the revision of the existing system based on criteria related to low soil productivity and poor climate conditions for agriculture and the consequent Communication from the Commission: "Towards a better targeting of the aid to farmers in areas with natural handicaps" of 21 Apr. 2011.
The FAO’s agricultural problem land approach was selected and adjusted to come forward with the policy requirement. The FAO approach was deemed appropriate because it is not crop-specific and for its simple assumptions regarding the mutual interaction of land characteristics on the overall suitability of the land, making it applicable for a territory as large and diverse as the EU27. Two climatic and four soil criteria were retained and complemented by one integrated soil-climate criterion (Excess soil moisture – Field Capacity duration), with slope as the sole topographic criterion. For each criterion a critical limit was defined dividing the criterion range into two categories: not limiting and severely limiting for agriculture. The criteria and the associated critical limits or threshold values have been tested by Member States of the European Union. Feedbacks and suggestions from Member States simulations have been taken into account to update the initial list of bio-physical criteria so that the applicability is ensured in EU27. Therefore, they can be used in Member States to
discriminate land with biophysical constraints to agricultural production on the basis that soil and climate data have sufficient spatial and semantic details. This document provides the scientific and agronomic rationale for bio-physical criteria identifying natural constraints (soil and climate) to agriculture in EU27.