Field-level land-use data reveal heterogeneous crop sequences with distinct regional differences in Germany


Crop cultivation intensifies globally, which can jeopardize biodiversity and the resilience of cropping systems. We investigate changes in crop rotations as one intensification metric for half of the croplands in Germany with annual field-level land-use data from 2005 to 2018. We proxy crop rotations with crop sequences and compare how these sequences changed among three seven-year periods. The results reveal an overall high diversity of crop sequences in Germany. Half of the cropland has crop sequences with four or more crops within a seven-year period, while continuous cultivation of the same crop is present on only 2% of the cropland. Larger farms tend to have more diverse crop sequences and organic farms have lower shares of cereal crops. In three federal states, crop rotations became less structurally diverse over time, i.e. the number of crops and the number of changes between crops decreased. In one state, structural diversity increased and the proportion of monocropping decreased. The functional diversity of the crop sequences, which measures the share of winter and spring crops as well as the share of leaf and cereal crops per sequence, remained largely stable. Trends towards cereal- or leaf-crop dominated sequences varied between the states, and no clear overall dynamic could be observed. However, the share of winter crops per sequence decreased in all four federal states. Quantifying the dynamics of crop sequences at the field level is an important metric of land-use intensity and can reveal the patterns of land-use intensification.

European Journal of Agronomy