Indicator Assessment

Land cover, use of arable land - outlook from EEA

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-69-en
  Also known as: Outlook 009
Published 08 Jun 2007 Last modified 11 May 2021
13 min read
This page was archived on 12 Nov 2013 with reason: Content not regularly updated

Harvested land is expected to continue to be used mainly for fodder and the production of cereals (80% of the total area).

Required information is not filled in: Information about the starting date of the publishing schedule is missing.

Projections of arable land use

Note: N/A

Data source:

European environment outlook, EEA Report No 4/2005

Baseline scenario
The projections reported cover 23 EU Member States (Cyprus and Malta are not included due to limited data).

The following developments are expected for arable land use:

  • After an increase (5%) in the EU-15 in the second half of the 1990s, the total area of cereals in the (enlarged) EU is expected to stay fairly stable over the period to reach 52 million ha by 2020, about 31% of total arable land. The slight decrease in cereal area over the 2020 horizon mainly reflects the introduction of decoupling of payments associated with the mid-term review of the common agriculture policy (CAP) and the overall reduction in the level of support.
  • Wheat production (soft and durum wheat), which is the main cereal in the EU, is expected to retain its predominance with about 23 million ha in 2020. Barley would see its area decrease slightly over the period.
  • Fodder areas, which represent the largest share of agricultural land by 2020 (42%) are expected to experience a significant decrease over the period (about 9%); this is due mainly to a reduction in fodder demand for ruminants, as both supply of beef meat and cow herds are expected to drop in the long term.
  • Set-aside and fallow land is expected to represent 13 million ha by 2020 (8% of total agricultural land); increasing about 13% over 2001 level; this is driven by the doubling expected in the New-8, where fallow land increases considerably (and cancels out the developments in the EU-15) and obligatory ste-aside progresses as the Grandes Cultures areas shift in the long term from small farms, which are exempt from set-aside, to larger ones.
  • The areas of permanent crops and paddy are expected to remain fairly stable, at about 8% of agricultural land by 2020.
  • In contrast, the areas of oilseeds and pulses are expected to increase by about 12% by 2020 to represent 6% of arable land

Supporting information

Indicator definition

Definition: This outlook indicator presents information on use of arable land by crop types: fodder; cereals; permanent crops and paddy; oilseeds and pulses; other arable crops areas and set aside and fallow land.

Model used: CASPIM

Ownership: European Environment Agency

Temporal coverage:  2020

Geographical coverage: EU-23: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, Czech republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia


Total arable land is measured in hectares (ha) or square kilometers (km2).
The shares of arable land used for different crops are presented as per cent of total arable land.


Policy context and targets

Context description

Pan-European Level
There are no international conventions or other policy documents at the Pan-European level efficiency of implementations of which can be measured by this indicator. Chapter 10 of Agenda 21 emphasizes importance of Integrated Approach to the Planning and Management of Land Resources and stimulates countries to use land resources in amore sustainable way.

EU policy context
However, there no directly related policy documents which regulate size and use of arable land for environmental reasons, the EU 6th Environmental Action Programme promotes the integration of biodiversity considerations in agricultural policies and encourages more environmentally responsible farming, including, where appropriate, extensive production methods, integrated farming practices, organic farming. Achievement of this objective can indirectly be measured by this indicator. If the indicators would include information about the organic farming by crops it can also reflect achievability goald related to Organic farming. Organic farming is an environmentally sustainable form of agricultural production.Its legal framework is defined by Council Regulation 2092/91 and amendments. The adoption of organic farming methods by individual farmers is supported through agri-environment scheme payments and other rural development measures at Member State level. In 2004 the EU Commission published a 'European Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming' (COM(2004) 415 final) to further promote this farming system.

EECCA policy

Not available


Pan-European Level
There are no international targets for this indicator does not exist.

EU level
There are no specific targets at the European and Pan-European level, although different documents reflect the need for better arable land planning. No specific EU target on the share of organic farming area in arable land. A number of EU Member States have already set targets for area under organic farming, often 10-20 % in 2010.

EECCA level
Not available


Related policy documents

  • COM (1998) 42
    Communication of the European Commission to the Council and to the European Parliament on a European Community Biodiversity Strategy. COM (1998) 42
  • Sixth Environment Action Programme (decision No 1600/2002/EC)
    DECISION No 1600/2002/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 22 July 2002 laying down the Sixth Community Environment Action Programme


Methodology for indicator calculation

Projections of the indicator are calculated using the CAPSIM modelling tool which has been developed by EuroCARE GBmv (Bonn, Germany). The indicator's calculations are used as an intermediate result in the model

Overview of CAPSIM model

CAPSIM is a European partial equilibrium modelling tool with behavioural functions for activity levels, input demand, consumer demand and processing. It is designed for policy-relevant analysis of the CAP and consequently covers the whole of agriculture of EU Member States in the concepts of the Economic Accounts (EAA) at a high level of disaggregation, both in the list of included items (cropping and livestock patterns and animal products per country) and in policy coverage. Technological, structural and preference changes combine with changes in exogenous inputs (e.g. population, prices or household expenditure) to determine the future development of agriculture.

The modell allows combining different projections, for example from modelling tools, expert panels or trends forecasts, and finds a compromise between these under a set of economic (e.g. market balances), spatial (e.g. used vs. available areas) and technical (e.g. balancing of feed contents and animal requirements) constraints. The projections from the following organisations have been taken into account: European Comission (2004a); FAPRI, (2004); FAO (Bruinsma, 2003); and IFPRI (Rosenrant et al., 2001a and 2001b).

CAPSIM is augmented by a calculation of nutrient balances (N,P,K) and gaseous emissions.

For more information see: or

Use of Scenarios and Key model assumptions

Baseline scenario

The baseline scenario follows a conventional definition and expands on current expectations regarding macro-economic, sectoral, technological and societal developments, as well as including those policies that have been implemented and/or adopted, which typically refer to pieces of legislation such as EU directives or political agreements.

EEA's outlooks across the various sectors and themes use a common reference set of assumptions for the key driving forces to ensure consistency across the board and facilitate cross-cutting analysis. This reference set builds on the socio-economic assumptions developed for the DG TREN baseline projections 'European energy and transport trends to 2030', which are also being used within the Clean Air forEurope (CAFE, DG ENV) programme. Within this framework, assumptions have been developed as a consistent set and cover the following key driving forces:

  • population
  • macro and macro-economic activity
  • household expenditure
  • number of households
  • average household size
  • energy flows.

The European population is expected to stabilize, but gradually to become an ageing society. Main demographical trends are presented in the Table 1. below

Table 1. Demography - population development 1990 - 2030

Population (millions)


EEA - 31

EU - 25

EU - 15

New - 10


























Average annual growth rates (%)

1990 -2000





1990 -2030





The age distribution in the EU is a growing concern, particularly in connection with pension and health expenditure and working life-time. While the accession of the 10 new Member States in 2004 has somewhat rejuvenated the EU population, it failed toreserve the trend of increasing old age dependency from 30% in the 1960s to 39% today in the EU-25.

This trend is expected t continue over the 2000-2030 period, with the share of people of 65 years and older in the total population increasing from 15% to 25% in the EU-15, and from 10% to 22% in the New-10.

The macro-economic assumptions
The macro-economic assumptions for Europe are moderately optimistic and entail challenging trade-offs in light of achieving sustainable economic development.

Average annual economic growth in the EU is expected to be 2.4% and 3.5% in the New-10. GDP assumptions are presented in the table 2.
Table 2. Income - GDP growth 2000 - 2030

GDP per capita (1000 Euro, year 2000)


EEA - 31

EU - 25

EU - 15

New - 10





















Average annual growth rates (%)





















Technological developments
Technological progress is moderate but essential in key areas such as energy, agriculture and water, but no technological breakthroughs are assumed.

More detailed information concerning technology can be found in the European Environment Outlook N4/2005 (pp. 22-23)

Sectoral developments
The service sector is expected to retain its predominance in the European economy and be instrumental in sustaining economic growth. The base line scenario uses specific technological assumptions at the sctoral level, which directly affect most of European environmental concerns. The explanations of such assumptions are available in the European Environment Outlook N4/2005 (pp. 23-24)

Extended CAP reform - liberalisation of animal product markets scenario

The current CAP, assumed to be continued to 2020 in the baseline scenario, increases prices for animal products, both by border protection and market interventions, beyond the level which woul prevail in the abcence of common market organisations. This scenarion assesses the impact of an extended CAP reform on selected environmental indicators by assuming a continued liberalisation in the context of WTO negotiations for animal products market.

Best practice scenario for fertiliser handling

The effect of significant improvements in management practices for handling fertiliser has been assessed in this scenario, which therefore depics a more environmental-friendly prospective for the European agriculture sectors. Some sets of parameters have benn changed from the base year onwards:

  • N, P and K from organic fertiliser available  for crop application are increased significantly respectively to 80%, 95% and 95% of the nitrogen.
  • The overall efficiency of farms when balancing crop nutrient needs and fertiliser applications: the overfertilisation rate is decreased (5%) and the New-8 converge towards EU-15 practices.

A stronger Euro scenario

The exchange rate in the baseline  scenario is fixed at 0.9EUR/USD from 2001 onwards, in line with the latest European Commission assumptions, thus the Euro is weaker than current market conditions. This scenario assesses  the possible effect of a stronger Euro of 0.75 EUR/USD.  This would imply lower terms of trade for agricultural goods, but import tariffs and the level of administrative prices and quota regimes would dampen price transmissions between global and EU markets and stabiilse prices.

Methodology for gap filling

The gap filling for modelling purposes includes nessesity for 'completeness and consistency'. It is currently included in the COCO module.

Because the population data of CAPSIM differ from Eurostat population data which provide the bulk of the CAPSIM database, the projections have been expressed in index form (relative 2000) and smoothed with a Hodrick-Prescott filter to give a continuous series of projections of population growth. The same approach is used for (real) household expenditure.

Methodology references



Methodology uncertainty

Any outlook exercise involves a number of uncertainties and shortcomings, related for example to the methodological approaches used or the scope of the study. These information gaps and limitations are inherent in any assessment of possible futures, and this outlook would certainly have benefited from additional information covering some issues.

The main limiting factor in developing a comprehensive environmental outlook has been the lack of data, information or models covering some environmental issues.

At the time of filling of this specification the uncertainties related to the CAPSIM model were not found in the reference literature (additional research or consultation with the EEA expert is needed). The uncertainties related to the data sets used as model input are presented in the next section.

Data sets uncertainty

To be discussed with Stephane. not clear from the references studied.

Rationale uncertainty

The indicator by itself does not identify the causes or pressures leading to the change in land use.

Data sources

Other info

DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • Outlook 009
EEA Contact Info


Geographic coverage


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