Research & Studies

Distribution pattern of major crops and their cultivation intensity indicated by soil phosphorus concentrations in Europe

The article was written with the contribution of Nóra Szigeti, Tamás Hermann, iASK researchers and Gergely Tóth, deputy-director, and was released in Agronomy Journal in 2023.


The sowing area and yield of crops are primarily determined by climatic suitability and modified by terrain conditions. This study presents the actual sowing area of ten major crops in Europe and reveals the spatial pattern of available soil phosphorus concentrations between and within the sowing areas of the crops, based on the LUCAS database. A great variance in cropping pattern over Europe was observed, especially for crops with a broad climatic tolerance. Results show significant differences between soil phosphorus concentrations under different agricultural crops, indicating the differences in management intensities of major crops. A strong relationship between high yields and P-fertilizer use were found, as indicated by soil P concentration. In the context of environmental zones, northern zones exhibit higher, the zones in central Europe medium, and the Mediterranean zones lower P-concentration values. The more suitable the climate is for growing crops, the more it pays to apply P fertilizers. Consequently, soil P-concentration is a good indicator of crop cultivation intensity, land productivity, P-fertilizer use, and the total P demand of plants. Among the most commonly cultivated crops, maize seems to be the most dependent crop for the level of phosphorous concentration of soil or the P inputs. For more sustainable P use in Europe, further research is needed to calculate how the P-requirements of yields compares to the P-fertilizer use in the case of different crop types.

The article is available HERE, with full text.