Research & Studies

Land Suitability Analysis as a Tool for Evaluating Soil-Improving Cropping Systems

The article was written with the contribution of Tamás Hermann, iASK researcher, and Gergely Tóth, iASK Deputy Director and was released in Land in 2022.


Agricultural land use planning is based on the capacity of the soil to support different types of crops and is a prerequisite for better use of cultivated land. Land Suitability Analysis (LSA) is used to measure the level of suitability of growing a specific crop in the area and can also be used to evaluate future scenarios as a means for sustainable agriculture. LSA was employed to calculate current land suitability, as well as four scenarios of Soil-Improving Cropping Systems (SICS): (a) Conservation Tillage (CT), (b) Cover Crop (CC), (c) Crop Residue Management (CRM), and (d) Manure Application (MA). The scenarios of SICS were derived by increasing soil organic matter and cation exchange capacity values depending on the SICS hypothetically applied for a period of 100 years in the future. LSA was evaluated for maize in three sites: (a) Flanders (BE), (b) Somogy (HU), and (c) Hengshui (CH). LSA was performed using the Agricultural Land Use Evaluation System (ALUES) considering soil and climatic and topographic parameters. Weighing factors of input parameters were assigned using the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP).

The results show that in Flanders, the highly suitable (S2) class covered 3.3% of the total area, and the best scenario for improving current LS was CRM, in which S2 expanded to 9.1%. In Somogy, the S2 class covered 18.3% of the total area, and the best scenarios for improving current land suitability were CT and CC, in both of which the S2 class expanded to 70.5% of the total area. In Hengshui, the S2 class covered 64.7% of the total area, and all SICS scenarios performed extremely well, converting almost all moderately suitable (S3) areas to S2. The main limiting factor that was recognized from a limiting factor analysis in all cases was the climatic conditions. This work proves that LSA can evaluate scenarios of management practices and recognize limiting factors. The proposed methodology is a novel approach that can provide land suitability maps to efficiently evaluate SICS scenarios by projecting soil characteristics and LSA in the future, thus facilitating management decisions of regional policy makers.

Keywords: sustainability, soil ferility, land use planning, AHP, ALUES

The article is available HERE, with full text