Crop diversity in Scania : geographical and cognitive mapping

University essay from SLU/Department of Biosystems and Technology (from 130101)

Abstract: Modern agriculture is characterized by large scale and large-scale farming of a few crops, which rely heavily on external inputs. These kinds of intensive and specialized farming systems are contributing to exceeding the planetary boundaries for our ecosystems. Biodiversity in particular is under immense threat in industrial agricultural landscapes, while at the same time biodiversity itself has the ability to ensure resilience and minimize negative environmental externalities. In the face of global challenges and changes, there is a need for re-introducing biodiversity to agriculture. Crop diversity has the potential to increase the resilience of farming systems and to support vital ecosystem services, but there is little economic incentive for farmers to diversify their cropping systems. To find solutions for how crop diversity can increase, it is important to understand why cropping systems are more or less diverse to begin with. To answer this question, this study mapped the geographical distribution of farmer’s crop diversity in Scania, southern Sweden, and further explored farmers’ motivation for crop diversification. Geographical crop data was processed and analysed with Geographical Information Systems and Shannon’s Index. Six arable farmers with high crop diversity were interviewed, and the interviews were analysed with the Self-Determination Theory of Human Motivation and Cognitive Mapping. The crop diversity analysis revealed some general regional differences, that correlated well with the five farming areas in Scania. This suggested that the variation of farmers’ crop diversity could partially be explained by geographical differences. However, clusters of farms with high crop diversity were identified, which stood out from their surroundings within the same farming area. This indicates that other factors than geographical location also influence which level of crop diversity that farmers implement. The analysis of farmers’ motivations suggests that economic and market aspects, as well as intrinsic motivations, such as farmers own interest and valuing of crop diversity, are factors that might explain why some farmers have more diverse cropping systems than others. The interviews also reflected how market system dynamics push farmers towards specialised production, and that the limited sales opportunities and revenue for diverse cropping systems is a barrier to crop diversification. Alternative sales mechanisms were discussed. The potential for public procurement to support local and small-scale grain legume and organic vegetable production stood out as a significant opportunity for crop diversification, based on the respondents’ motivation for these crops and alternative sales strategies. If crop diversity can be increased in a way that build on farmers’ intrinsic motivations, the implementation is more likely to last than if it is forced through regulations without considering farmers’ motivations. Moreover, public procurement of grain legumes and vegetables has the potential to improve public health and farmer’s income security, thus delivering holistic solutions that reach beyond the cropping system and ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes.

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