BAB 040/20: Biophysical processes of agricultural land use in Austria

modelling and analysis

Initial situation

In times of climate change and increasingly limited resources, Austrian agriculture is caught between economic efficiency and ecologically sustainable production. In addition to general questions on forms of agricultural land management, changing framework conditions and agricultural policy measures are also of importance. In Austria, a wide range of measures under the ÖPUL agri-environmental program promote environmentally friendly farming. There are numerous interactions between the different economic and ecological sub-areas of the agricultural, environmental and food systems, which can result in conflicts of objectives but also synergy effects.
In addition to theoretical, conceptual considerations, quantitative methods can also be helpful in demonstrating these complex interrelationships. For example, mathematical models for the simulation of plant growth (crop models) depict biophysical processes such as biomass production, nutrient cycles, soil water balance and erosion. With the help of model scenarios and depending on the site conditions, relationships between plant yields and management measures as well as the environmental effects of cultivation can be analyzed. In addition to the complex and data-intensive crop models, there are a number of other quantitative methods with varying degrees of detail, data requirements and explanatory potential.


The aim of the project is to develop an analytical concept for the investigation of negative and positive environmental effects of agricultural land use and, conversely, the effects of current and expected future ecological framework conditions on agricultural land use. This concept should include a theoretical framework based on a systematic approach, a database consisting of relevant data and indicators as well as a selection of methods for quantitative analysis. Adapted to regional conditions and equipped with a certain flexibility, the analysis concept can be a valuable basis for decision-making for a variety of questions in the agri-environmental sector.

Status of the project

For the theoretical framework, an extensive collection of literature was compiled and substantive and methodological knowledge was acquired as part of the projects "Systemic considerations in the agricultural, environmental and food sector" (BAB 056/22) and "Economic studies and consultation in connection with the OECD and WTO" (BAB 003/86).Data on the environmental effects of agricultural land use, such as those on natural conditions like topography, soil quality and meteorological data, as well as on management measures like crop rotation, irrigation, tillage and the use of fertilizers and pesticides were taken from various data sources (including the BML geodata catalog) and compiled on a site-specific basis.

In the area of methods, an overview was gained of the open source crop models used in research, which differ from one another in terms of model scope, data requirements and implementation, among other things.
In addition, research was carried out into statistical methods. While the large data requirements of crop models, which are sometimes difficult to fulfill, can also be a source of uncertainty, the statistical methods used in this thermal area are usually less data-intensive, but often less detailed and designed in the form of a black box, i.e. without replicating the causal relationships. Information was also collected on methods that combine models and statistical procedures, as well as on the integration of remote sensing as a data source. An initial selection of these methods was studied and tested in detail.

Work 2024

For the theoretical framework, the information acquired as part of the projects "Systemic considerations in the agricultural, environmental and food sector" (BAB 056/22) and "Economic studies and advice in connection with the OECD and WTO" (BAB 003/86) is to be compiled and supplemented in order to be able to present relevant processes, interactions, framework conditions and system boundaries at a conceptual level.

The database is to be further completed and expanded into a clear reference work for data and indicators in the agri-environmental sector that can also be used for other projects. Fundamental considerations on data quality, limitations of existing indicators, data gaps and possible further developments, especially with regard to remote sensing, are also to be made.Time series of satellite data (sentinel) can provide information about growth periods or plant vitality, for example, with the help of calculated indices.For a higher resolution, aerial photographs can be used if necessary.The considerations regarding the database should also refer to the data requirements to be expected in the future, which could arise, for example, due to stronger regulations or the increasingly results-based design of measures.

In the area of methods, the strengths, weaknesses and requirements of various methods and possible combinations are to be examined, compared and assessed with regard to the purpose of the project.
The possibility of using remote sensing to close data gaps and improve the accuracy of the methods will also be investigated.The first step will be to analyze data availability and data quality.In the second step, the methodological approach and technical solutions with which remote sensing data can be used sensibly will be explored.Finally, the methods that appear to be suitable for the project will be implemented and parameterized in order of increasing complexity and then compared in terms of detail, data requirements and availability as well as accuracy of the results. Among other things, the revenue data of the accounting companies are available for validation.

The analysis concept developed is intended to illustrate relationships between agricultural soil use and environmental effects from a systemic perspective and, where possible, to analyze them quantitatively.An initial analysis could deal with the effects of regionally increased drought on yields, growing seasons and soil properties.In addition, cooperation and combination possibilities with the "Model System" project (BAB 009/04), in which, among other things, a database and models or methods for answering economic questions, especially at the interface between agriculture and the environment, are being developed, should be examined.This would possibly contribute to a more comprehensive ecological-economic approach.


Project start: 01/2020
Project end: 12/2024


This text has been automatically translated with

Wheat field

Wheat field

BABF, Hager, 2015

Project Status


Project Leader


Agricultural, Environmental and Food Systems



Agricultural, Environmental and Food Systems
TRIBL, Christoph

DI Dr. Christoph TRIBL

Agricultural, Environmental and Food Systems
KÖMLE, Dieter

Dr. Dipl-Ing. Dieter Kömle

Agricultural Economics and Data Management
Dietrichgasse 27
1030 Wien
 +43 (1) 71100 - 637415

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