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FFL-JA-Forskningsmidlene for jordbruk og matindustri

Land fragmentation in agriculture - causes, consequences and measures (LANDFRAG)

Alternative title: Arealfragmentering i jordbruket - årsaker, konsekvenser og tiltak (LANDFRAG)

Awarded: NOK 3.9 mill.

The research project Landfrag has aimed to get an overview of land fragmentation in agriculture, how farmers and owners experience this and what may be relevant measures. Scattered distribution of land is a phenomenon that more and more farmers are experiencing as the farms become bigger. However, it is not obvious how the problem is experienced and what measures are suitable. The project has tried to find out this through transdisciplinary research. The project has yielded results in the form of increased and more precise knowledge about the phenomenon and methods and tools for engaging farmers, owners, consultants, and authorities. Eight local study areas selected in consultation with the county governors (as of 2017) who were partners in the project have been central to the project. 1) Efforts have been made to compile map information related to the study areas based on area resource maps (AR5), property information (cadastre), data on operating units (from the Producer Register), and information on road systems. This has resulted in accessible information on how areas operated by different farms are distributed in a local area. The maps have provided an opportunity to simulate scenarios where parcels are hypothetically redistributed between farms in an area. Maps have proven to work very well at local meetings for farmers and owners to illustrate the problem. Development and use of maps are described in the report: Stokstad, G., Heggem, E. S. F., & Krøgli, S. O. (2020). Datakilder og metoder for analyse og illustrasjon av arealfragmentering i jordbruket. Rapport 6(125) 2020. Ås: Norsk institutt for bioøkonomi. 2) On the basis of the maps, models have been developed to illustrate the economic and climatic effects of land exchange locally between farms. The models require assessments regarding farmland, transport costs, ownership, and soil quality. The model has been tested in two of the local study areas. Based on the calculations, it can be assumed that exchanges of land would result in savings in transport costs corresponding to NOK 650 million annually. The calculations are published in the article: Mittenzwei, K. (2020). Arealbytte og transport langs vei i jordbruket. Kart og Plan (4/2020). The project also includes an Excel-based transport calculation for roughage and manure spreading for use at farm level, available under 3) The project has investigated how farmers and owners experience land fragmentation. An important finding is that four out of ten farmers experience land fragmentation as a problem. This is especially true for farmers who have more than 2 km transport distance to the areas and rent from two or more landowners. The study is described in: Forbord, M., & Zahl-Thanem, A. (2019). Bønders opplevelse av spredte jordbruksarealer. Resultater fra en spørreundersøkelse. Rapport nr. 1/2019. Trondheim: Ruralis. The second study was based on interviews with farmers and owners. The proportion of leased land is increasing in agriculture, and land leasing takes place in local markets. Farmers experience uncertainty and increased costs as the biggest problem with rent. For landowners, it is important that the land is maintained and that there is a good rental price. Findings in: Stræte, E. P. (2020). Jordleie - bonde og jordeier i samspill i et marked. Rapport 5/20. Trondheim: Ruralis. 4) In collaboration with local actors, local meetings were arranged in the eight study areas. A purpose of the meetings was to try out how one through semi-structured schemes can create local involvement around the topic of land fragmentation, gain insight into how farmers and owners experience the phenomenon and more clarity in which actors can assist with advice. Preparing and conducting such meetings was labor-intensive, but provided unique insight into what it takes to create appropriate arenas and processes. Concerning development assistance, the regional department of the Norwegian Agricultural Advisory Service and municipal agricultural administration was actively involved in many of the study areas. See more information in: Forbord, M., & Vinge, H. (red.). (2020). Endret jordbruk - spredte arealer. Et ressurshefte fra forskningsprosjektet Landfrag. Trondheim: Ruralis. 5) Dissemination from the project was a high priority. The corona pandemic provided opportunities to try out alternative forms of communication. In collaboration with a communications agency, a conceptual platform for dissemination and coordinated presentation in the media and on social platforms was created. The three most important results were: Animation film which in 60 seconds shows the key elements in area fragmentation, the final conference at Teams on 12 November 2020 with around 150 participants, and the resource booklet, all this available for free at

Outcomes The project has through local and national meetings, a conference, movie, reports, chronicles, lectures, and a project home page engaged users concerning the question of land fragmentation; farmers, land owners, advisory services, agricultural authorities, and organisations. This has led to increased knowledge about aspects of land fragmentation and awareness of appropriate tools. Through research and development activities the project has produced scientific results documented in articles, reports, and a tool. Impacts Changes in the longer term that can be expected due to the project are: 1) the interest and attention to the topic of land fragmentation and its consequences will be spread to a wider set of actors in the agricultural community, and 2) through the trans disciplinary research collaboration and the publications from the project, a knowledge and network foundation is led for further progress in studies of land fragmentation nationally and internationally.

Voluntary organization can be a way to reduce undesirable land fragmentation in agriculture. However, there are some unclarified issues, such as farmers' attitudes, organization of projects, professional support and design of solutions. The project will clarify this through testing and research in collaboration with local actors and advisors in selected parts of the country. Fragmentation is a crucial issue since suitable farmland is vital for food security, domestic production of feed, value creation and sustainability - main goals in the agricultural policy. However, scarce land availability and small field sizes mean that farm expansion is often accompanied by increased land fragmentation. Consequently, gains due to increased economies of scale may be compromised through rising costs of transportation and more difficult field management. Existing measures to tackle this issue involve market exchange of rental land and state regulation, but have not significantly improved the situation. New approaches are urgently required, as concluded by a recent task force reviewing land use in agriculture (Landbruksdirektoratet, 2015). Based on insights from European research projects, one promising approach is voluntary organization among farmers. This requires technical support (maps, economic calculations) and societal expertise. The proposed project will explore alternative solutions in cooperation with local stakeholders. The project has four R&D work packages (WPs): 1) measuring fields and distances from maps and farm data, 2) economic and sustainability assessments, 3) farmers' and owners' experiences and possibilities, and 4) testing and evaluating intervention processes in selected study areas. Dissemination and administration are organized in two separate WPs. The main part of the research will take place in eight case areas in the participating counties. The study areas will be decided early on in the project in close cooperation with the partners.

Publications from Cristin

Funding scheme:

FFL-JA-Forskningsmidlene for jordbruk og matindustri