SLU news

Swedish farmers’ reports to the EU used by researchers to study choices of crops

Published: 16 February 2024
Portrait photo of Rafaelle Reumaux.

In her first scientific publication, PhD student Rafaelle Reumaux shows how the Land Parcel Identification System can be used to study crop sequences. She has studied the choices of crops in organic and conventional farming, from the north to the south of Sweden.

Farmers strategically plan the order in which they grow crops to reduce disease and improve crop yields, especially in organic farming where synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers are not used. Understanding the different crop sequences used in organic and traditional farming is crucial for designing farming systems that optimize diversity and enhance the efficiency of the production.

Rafaelle Reumaux and her colleagues investigated crop diversity and crop order, in both organic and conventional farming over a decade, using the Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS) database (managed by the Swedish Board of Agriculture). The researchers analyzed sequences of crops grown in different parts of Sweden and found interesting patterns of species distribution. For example, in the most productive areas in the south, small grain cereals like winter wheat were common, while in less productive areas, forage crops were more prevalent.

  • The study also showed that crop sequences varied more in the productive zones where the number of crops grown was higher than in the less productive zones.
  • The diversity of crops was greater on organic farms, with nine percent higher crop diversity than conventional ones in these areas.
  • The crops cultivated the year before organic winter wheat were more often ley or legumes, while for spring barley, another cereal was often the pre-crop.

– Our study provides valuable insights into how crops are chosen and managed in different areas. Understanding these patterns can help farmers, advisors and policymakers make more informed decisions to support sustainable and efficient crop production, says Rafaelle Reumaux.

The LPIS database is based on what farmers report into the system, when they are applying for public subsidies from the EU.

– The reporting system has changed over time, which means that sometimes we find data with variable resolution and traceability. In our study we decided to choose a quality level in which we can follow 40 percent of the fields over ten years, Rafaelle Reumaux explains.

The great potential of the LPIS data is that researchers can get information on what farmers actually grow on their fields.

– We get snapshots of the reality as well as the possibility to follow fields over a long time, in contrast to field experiments that are conducted for specific purposes often during shorter periods.