Anja Herkner
Institute of Rural Studies

Bundesallee 64
38116 Braunschweig
Phone: +49 531 596 5501
Fax: +49 531 596 5599

Superior project Greening: Accompanying ecological research on the greening of the Common Agricultural Policy


Tree in an arable field (c) Thünen-Institut/Johanna Fick
Greening: crop diversification, preservation of permanent grassland and declaration of ecological focus areas. (© Thünen-Institut/Johanna Fick)

Accompanying ecological research on the greening of the Common Agricultural Policy

With the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, the European Commission decided upon a more environmental-friendly, “greener” first pillar. The effectiveness of the greening measures for nature conservation and environmental protection, however, is discussed controversially. In various projects we therefore pursue the question of the effectiveness.

Background and Objective

Significant species decline in agricultural landscapes, continuing high nutrient inputs in soils and waters as well as European and global stipulations for biodiversity protection require an agriculture that focuses more on ecological aspects. To address these needs the European Commission introduced a “greening” through the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that should strengthen the ecological sustainability of agriculture. Since 1 January 2015, a part of the direct payments of the first pillar is linked to farming practices promoting climate and environmental protection with three measures:

  • Crop diversification: Most farms with more than 30ha arable land have to cultivate at least three crops. The major crop must not exceed 75% of the area and the share of the other two crops must cover at least 5% of area each. Farms with 10 to 30ha arable land must cultivate at least two crops, whereas the major crop must not cover more than 75% of the area.
  • Preservation of permanent grassland: Permanent grassland reported as a flora-fauna habitat (FFH) area is labeled as environmentally sensitive grassland and is subject to a prohibition of conversion and ploughing. Permanent grassland that is not declared as environmentally sensitive can be converted exclusively with authorization. Normally, an authorization is only given when permanent grassland is newly established to the same extent at another place in the same region and when the share of permanent grassland of the region declined by no more than 5% between 2012 and 2015.
  • Declaration of ecological focus areas on arable land: Farms with more than 15ha arable land must declare 5% of their cropland as an ecological focus area. Different EFA types can be chosen, some of them allowing agricultural usage (e.g., short rotation coppice, catch crops) and some do not (e.g., fallow land, landscape elements).

Under certain conditions farms are excluded from greening, for example organic farms. Currently, there is a controversial discussion on the ecological effectiveness of EFA. It is also disputed whether the high administration and monitoring effort of those measures is proportionate. A mid-term evaluation of the European Commission in 2017 should give information on the effectiveness of the measures on the preservation of biological diversity as well as the protection of water, climate and soil. Based on the mid-term evaluation, changes in the greening policy are possible from 2018 onwards.

Photo: Poppy and corn flower in cereal field
The Greening shall promote the biodiversity of agricultural used landscapes. (© Thünen-Institut/Norbert Röder)
Photo: Erosion gully in an arable plot
The Greening shall contribute to the preservation of abiotic ressources (e.g. soil). (© Thünen-Institut/Norbert Röder)

Target Group

Ministries of agriculture and environment, farmers, consultants, official nature conservation, agricultural administration, European Commission


At the Thünen Institute of Rural Studies, there are several projects dealing with the effects of the greening on nature protection (see Links and Downloads). Their results should be used to generate practical recommendations for the evaluation of the CAP reform in 2017.

Data and Methods

In the projects we especially analyze operational data from the federal states to find out more about the selection, implementation and ecological effects of the greening measures. The different focuses of the projects cover all three fields of the greening measures, supporting a greater contribution to ecology through agriculture in the future.

Our Research Questions

How are the new greening regulation implemented by farmers and what influences their decisions?

What is the additional conservation value of the greening measures implemented under the current conditions?

How could the benefit of the greening be enhanced?

How could economically favorable options for farmers look that create benefits for nature protection at the same time?

Preliminary Results

The project should show how, in addition to political guidelines, operation- and region-specific factors influence the choice and implementation of EFA and their ecological effectiveness. First results are expected by the beginning of 2016.

Photo: Landscape with a fine scaled mosaic of different agricultural land uses.
It is questionable if the Greening will have positive effects in structural rich landscapes. (© Thünen-Institut/Johanna Fick)

Publications to the project

Results 16 - 20 of 29

Begin   back   next   end

  1. Laggner B, Röder N (2017) Does land fragmentation currently limit grazing in dairy farms in Lower Saxony, Germany? In: Porqueddu C, Franca A, Lombardi G, Molle G, Peratoner G, Hopkins A (eds) Grassland resources for extensive farming systems in marginal lands: major drivers and future scenarios : Proceedings of the 19th Symposium of the European Grassland Federation ; 7-10 May 2017. Sassari: EGF, pp 179-181
  2. Gocht A, Ciaian P, Bielza M, Terres J-M, Röder N, Himics M, Salputra G (2017) EU-wide economic and environmental impacts of CAP greening with high spatial and farm-type detail. J Agric Econ 68(3):651-681, DOI:10.1111/1477-9552.12217
  3. Hart K, Mottershead D, Tucker G, Underwood E, Maréchal A, Menet L, Martin I, Dayde C, Bresson C, Deniel E, Sanders J, Röder N, Osterburg B, Klages S (2017) Evaluation study of the payment for agricultural practices beneficial for the climate and the environment : final report. Luxembourg: European Commission, 248 p, DOI:10.2762/71725
  4. Nitsch H, Röder N, Oppermann R, Milz E, Baum S, Lepp T, Kronenbitter J, Ackermann A, Schramek J (2017) Naturschutzfachliche Ausgestaltung von Ökologischen Vorrangflächen. Bonn: BfN, 192 p, BfN Skripten 472, DOI:10.19217/skr472
  5. Lakner S, Röder N, Baum S, Ackermann A (2017) The German implementation of Greening - effectiveness, participation & policy integration with the agri-environmental programs : contributed poster to the XV EAAE Congress ; Towards Sustainable Agri-Food Systems: Balancing between Markets and Society ; Munich, Sept., 13th-15th, 2017. München, 12 p
    pdf document (limited accessibility) 723 kb

Results 16 - 20 of 29

Begin   back   next   end