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Land use in agricultural landscapes

Stefan Erasmi and Alexander Gocht

LV Institute of Rural Studies
BW Institute of Farm Economics

How is agricultural land used and how is its use changing? Satellites of the Copernicus program provide the basis for an area-wide and accurate inventory for the whole of Germany.

Every year, the Thünen Institute produces maps showing how agricultural use and its spatial patterns are developing in the agricultural landscape in Germany.

The maps for the years 2017 to 2019 that were developed in cooperation with the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the ​Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF), can be viewed here.

The download of the georeferenced data is available here.

Agricultural use in Germany is highly dynamic. This is because agricultural enterprises have to adapt the cultivation and management of their fields to climate change and new political framework conditions. These adaptation mechanisms lead to constant changes in the agricultural landscape, which in turn affect the environment, the climate and the structure of agricultural areas.

Against this background, regular and high-resolution satellite imagery provides a unique data basis for analysing the spatial and temporal patterns of agricultural use at different scales of observation.

This information is of importance for example for:

Agricultural statistics

The agricultural structure survey provides aggregated data on land use at intervals of three to four years, which are spatially and temporally disaggregated using estimators and samples. With the spatial data available, the statistical data can be validated and the procedures and results retrospectively optimised.

The EU agricultural policy

A core objective of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the EU member states is to improve the condition and use of natural resources in the agricultural landscape. Satellite-based maps can help to understand the effectiveness of CAP measures, e.g. by showing changes in land use, crop diversity or landscape structure.


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