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RPG Explorer: A new tool to ease the analysis of agricultural landscape dynamics with the Land Parcel Identification System

Levavasseur, F., Martin, P., Bouty, C., Barbottin, A., Bretagnolle, V., Thérond, O., Scheurer, O., Piskiewicz, N.
Computers and electronics in agriculture 2016 v.127 pp. 541-552
European Union, Helianthus annuus, agricultural subsidies, computer software, corn, crop rotation, databases, farm area, farm numbers, farmers, farms, geographic information systems, geometry, grasslands, land cover, models, rapeseed, scientists, stakeholders, watersheds, winter wheat, France
In the early 2000s a Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS) was set up by each member state of the European Union, to manage agricultural subsidies. These databases describe field geometry and landcover, and provide information on farm characteristics. LPIS data could therefore be used to describe agricultural landscape dynamics, but are seldom put to this purpose by scientists and local stakeholders because it requires the use of GIS software and programming skills. The objective of this paper is thus to present RPG Explorer, a new tool that we developed to analyze agricultural landscape dynamics with LPIS data. RPG Explorer doesn’t require any specific skills in GIS and programming allowing non specialist to deal with complex data.RPG Explorer includes a first module which computes the changes in crop proportions and farm characteristics (numbers of farm, farm area, farm type). A second module computes crop sequences on each farmer block of LPIS data. We also included a crop rotation model in a third module.We illustrated the use of RPG Explorer for two example neighboring catchments located in western France, the Vivier catchment (16,000ha) and the Courance catchment (15,000ha). For example, RPG Explorer easily revealed the evolution of crop proportions, such as the increase of temporary grasslands in the Courance catchment (from 7.2% of the Utilized Agricultural Area (UAA) in 2007 to 11.7% in 2013). The number of farms was also shown to vary a lot: from 230 in 2007 to 207 in 2013 for the Vivier catchment, with a subsequent increase of their mean UAA (from 101ha to 119ha). RPG Explorer also showed that more than half of the Vivier catchment UAA (59%) was occupied by only 50 farms in 2013. Concerning crop sequences, the sunflower → winter wheat sequence was the most frequent 2-year sequence in both catchments, but some differences appeared with for example, a higher proportion of winter wheat → winter wheat sequence in the Courance catchment (7.2% against 3.6%). Crop rotation modeling indicated that the rapeseed → winter wheat → sunflower → winter wheat, sunflower → winter wheat and maize monoculture were the three main crop rotations.Finally, these examples illustrate well the ability for scientist and local stakeholders to easily describe some major agricultural landscape dynamics with RPG Explorer.