Crop diversity and stability of revenue on farms in Central Europe: An analysis of big data from a comprehensive agricultural census in Bavaria

PLoS One. 2018 Nov 19;13(11):e0207454. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0207454. eCollection 2018.


Diversity of agricultural landscapes is important to maintain the provision of ecosystem services. In face of decreasing support measures for agricultural markets in the European Union, diversified crop portfolios could also offer a possibility to stabilize revenue at farm level (portfolio effect). We hypothesize that (i) diversity of crop portfolios changes along spatial gradients in the study area (Bavaria, Germany), (ii) the composition of portfolios depends on farm parameters, and (iii) more diverse portfolios on arable land provide higher revenue stability. We analysed agricultural census data comprising all farms (N = 105 314) in the study area and identified 26 typical crop portfolios. We show that portfolio composition is related to farm characteristics (whole farm revenue, farm type, farm size) and location. Currently, diversification of crop portfolios fails to promote stability of portfolio revenue in the study area, where policy still indirectly influences market prices of energy crops. We conclude that the portfolio effect as a natural insurance was less important in recent years due to high market prices for specific crops. This low need for natural insurances probably favoured simplified portfolios leading to decreased agricultural diversity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Crop Production / economics*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Farms / economics*
  • Germany
  • Humans

Grant support

This work was supported by the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme under grant agreement no 311781, LIBERATION Project ( This publication was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the University of Bayreuth in the funding programme Open Access Publishing. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.