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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Economic Comparison between Pasture-Based Beef Production and Afforestation of Abandoned Land in Swedish Forest Districts

Kumm, Karl-Ivar; Hessle, Anna

Abstract

Large areas of agricultural land have been abandoned or are at risk of being abandoned such as small scattered fields and pastures in forest-dominated landscapes are unsuitable for modern mechanized agriculture and cost-efficient grazing. These areas have therefore become unprofitable to cultivate and graze. Spruce planting has been seen as the obvious alternative on these lands but is today questioned from landscape points of view. Now most abandoned land is left for natural afforestation. This study aims to compare the profitability in use of abandoned or marginal agricultural land in Swedish forest districts for spruce planting, natural birch afforestation, or organic beef cattle grazing large pasture-forest mosaics. The pastures consist of remaining semi-natural pastures, abandoned and marginal agricultural land, and adjacent forest land. Calculations of contribution to land, management, and risk suggest that, given present supports and environmental payments, organic beef production with herds of more than 20 suckler cows in large pasture-forest mosaics could be more profitable than forestry, except for in the most fertile areas of southern Sweden, where spruce planting has the highest contribution. Future tree breeding progress and possible decrease of livestock-related support and environmental payments would however increase the competitiveness of resumed afforestation relative to beef production.

Keywords

agricultural land; pasture; abandonment; beef; suckler cow; afforestation; forestry; spruce; landscape; climate; profitability

Published in

Land
2020, volume: 9, number: 2, article number: 42

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Environment and Health
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Environment and Health

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Life on land
SDG12 Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

UKÄ Subject classification

Agricultural Science
Animal and Dairy Science

Publication Identifiers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/land9020042

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/104081