Overview of measures

Some of the measures under the different conservation schemes will imply measures that affect the yield of a particular plot. Mostly, the aim is to shift the cultivation to a crop or management practice that is less intensive. As a result, the burden for water, soil and habitat quality will be lower. Other environmental benefits such as biodiversity and lower fossil fuel use are also linked to extensive farming 1. Because these measures affect the management quite substantially, the yield will also decrease.

For this class, grassland creation, agroforestry, afforestation and cultivation or fallow were defined as categories. These names are suggestive to the use of land prescribed by the conservation measure.


21 per cent of the European land is covered with grass 2. Yet, grassland is also being ploughed to create cropland, which is often more profitable. Because grassland provides several environmental benefits, compared to cropland, European governments created incentives to maintain grassland.


Agroforestry is the name for all kinds of agriculture that combine trees with crops or animals. Often this integration of cultivation types is done to make the land use more sustainable and to because land with two types of production (trees and crops/grass) yields more compared to the production of one cultivation type 3.


The afforestation of agricultural land is a practice that is promoted in a lot of regions in Europe, because of several environmental benefits this practice brings. Because farmers are not able to use their land in a productive manner anymore, the government provides financial incentives to take this measure.

Cultivation or fallow

Some crops are more environmentally friendly than others. Therefore, it would be beneficial if these crops would be cultivated more. Therefore, incentives are given to shift cultivation to certain crops, such as mixture of cereals and legumes, herbs and fallow ground.

Comparison and details

Agri-environmental schemes    Greening     Less favoured area payment

CategoryExpected from farmerEnvironmental benefitsPriceExamples of regionsBarriersOpportunities
Certain crop

Sow mixture of herbs, mixture of legumes and cereals or certain crops
  • Soil quality
  • Habitat protection (certainly birds)
  • Biodiversity
  • Water quality
  • Erosion reduction
200-2530 EUR/ha
  • Flanders
  • Wallonia
  • Nord-Pas-De-Calais
  • Bavaria

  • Netherlands
  • Mixtures are hard to maintain
  • Possible loss of revenue because not most profitable crops
  • All crops still yield
  • Often common crops that are not hard to cultivate

Keep plots fallow
  • Erosion reduction
  • Improvement of the water quality
  • Enhancement of pollinating insects
10-210 EUR/ha (Netherlands)
  • Nord-Pas-De-Calais
  • Bavaria
  • Netherlands
  • No yield
  • Possible extra soil erosion if done after tilling
  • Growth of seed bank (if not well managed)
  • Lower amount of P and K in soil afterwards (if long time)
  • Better soil quality (short time)
  • Better soil water storage

Apply agroforestry on a field
  • Extra sequestration of carbon
  • Increased biodiversity
80% of all costs or 1808 EUR/ha for planting and 34 for maintenance
  • Flanders
  • Wales
  • Difficult mechanization with trees in field
  • Long period before trees can be harvested
  • Higher complexity of work
  • Shadow of trees on crops
  • High payment for trees that might bring returns in the future
  • Higher biodiversity of the cropland
  • Double production (wood/crop)
  • Tree roots go deeper and prevent leaching
  • Microclimate created by trees increases yield potential


Afforest cropland
  • Increase soil organic carbon
  • Increase biodiversity
Afforestation: 3320-4950 EUR/ha, maintenance: 68-1900 EUR/ha
  • Flanders
  • Wales
  • Greece
  • Netherlands
  • No agricultural productivity of land
  • Juridical uncertainty of using the land later as cropland again?
  • Might be an opportunity for very low wetlands that do not yield

Convert to or maintain (natural) grassland Establish wetlands
  • Reduce soil erosion
  • Maintain permanent pasture
  • Enhance grassland quality
  • Decrease stocking rates
  • Soil carbon enhancement
61-2403 EUR/ha
  • Nord-Pas-De-Calais
  • Wales
  • Italy
  • Bavaria
  • Austria
  • Lithuania
  • Sweden
  • Flanders
  • Wallonia
  • Romania
  • Finland
  • Poland
  • Latvia
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Spain
  • Netherlands
  • Natural and long-term grassland is less productive
  • Some species within bio diverse grassland might be poisonous
  • Higher profit from arable land
  • Higher richness of species might be interesting for livestock
  • Lower risk for erosion
  • Higher soil organic matter
  • More resistant to drought

Case studies: 

Woodland management in Perthshire, UK

In Perthshire, a county in Scotland, an afforestation scheme was set up. Land that has previously been used for cattle stocking was afforested. The woodland creation was not done manually, but rather natural. Nevertheless, livestock was excluded to protect the tree seedlings. On smaller exclosures, the impact of excluding deer and rabbits was also tested.

Although a lot of effort is put into the regeneration of the native trees, the results were rather disappointing at first. For some native trees, seedlings could be found, but only in certain areas. Furthermore, no juniper seedlings could be found, although this was a key goal of the project. For this reason, seedlings were protected with individual guards and 200 oak and birch were planted. Although the regeneration is less natural, it could be expected that it would be more successful. The results of the second stage have not been reported yet.

Source: Hall, C., & Chapman, P. (2004). Agri-environment case studies – improving advice on practical habitat management. Aberdeenshire, UK. Retrieved from https://www.gov.scot/Resource/Doc/37428/0014237.pdf

ID kit
What: Afforestation of grassland
Location:  Perthshire, Scotland, UK
Duration: 11 year
Area: 8,5 ha
Measures taken: Livestock was excluded

Rabbits and deer also excluded

Natural regeneration of forest

Results: Four species of trees have 8 to 60 seedlings
Biodiversity rich meadows in White Carpathians, Czech

In the White Carpathians, in South-East Czech Republic, a scheme is set up to preserve grassland where this has been done for biodiversity for ages. The historical reason for this management is beef grazing. Yet, the beef industry has been declining for several years because of low prices. Therefore, agri-environmental payments and national policy measures become more important for the sustaining of the grassland.

This increased importance of payments for the general appreciation of biodiversity instead of products the land generates, has a double effect. On the one hand, farmers mention they are very dependent on the subsidies and therefore feel like “slaves to nature conservation”, while on the other hand, they recognize that the general public’s awareness of the importance of biodiversity is growing, and that farmers are thus doing “the right thing”.

Source: Prazan, J., & Konecna, M. M. (2016). Case Study. “biodiversity Rich Meadows” (Czech Republic). Praha, Czech Republic.

ID kit
What: Management of grassland for biodiversity
Location:  White Carpathians, Czech Republic
Duration: /
Area: 3972 ha (total area)
Measures taken: Traditional management performed in an innovative way (i.e. no fertilizer used, restricted mowing, but with large machinery)
Results: More bio diverse grassland
The result-based agri-environment measure in Baden-Württemberg, Germany

The result-based measure for conservation of biodiversity in species-rich grassland was one of the first established agri-environmental schemes in the EU. It was launched in 1992 as a pilot project to help farmers maintain extensive practices on grassland. Different subprograms exist, and all farmers can apply for several programs. The most innovative program is definitely MEKA-B4, as this uses a result-based approach to refund farmers for their efforts.

A list of 28 key species was defined by experts. From these 28 different species, 4 should be found on several places in the field to fulfil the requirements for refunding.  The payment is based on the yield forgone because of mowing less. Also the extra effort put into the making of hay instead of the harvesting forage is accounted. This resulted in a payment of 50 to 60 euro per hectare.

Source: Russi, D., Margue, H., Oppermann, R., & Keenleyside, C. (2016). Result-based agri-environment measures: market-based instruments, incentives or rewards? The case of Baden-Württemberg. Land Use Policy, 54, 69–77.

ID kit
What: Maintain biodiversity in species-rich grasslands
Location:  Baden-Württemberg, South Germany
Duration: 5 year
Area: Whole region can follow this measure
Measures taken: Maintain extensive practices in grassland management

Mow grass less (2 times instead of 3 times)

Results: Create a results-based approach of maintaining grassland

Make farmers maintain at least four different species of grass.