JOURNAL OF NATURAL RESOURCES ›› 2019, Vol. 34 ›› Issue (12): 2658-2672.doi: 10.31497/zrzyxb.20191214

• Resource Evaluation • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Characteristics of cropland fragmentation and its impact on agricultural production costs in mountainous areas

WANG Ya-hui1,2(), LI Xiu-bin2,3(), XIN Liang-jie2   

  1. 1. School of Geographical Sciences, Southwest University, Chongqing 400715, China
    2. Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    3. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2019-07-12 Revised:2019-09-24 Online:2019-12-28 Published:2019-12-28


Under the background of the continuous increase of agricultural cost and the wide use of labor-saving technology, in the mountainous areas, cropland fragmentation has gradually become a key factor to curb the increase of farmers' income. The clarification of the degree of cropland fragmentation and its impact on agricultural production cost has guiding value for reducing agricultural costs. Degree of cropland fragmentation was measured from the perspective of land ownership and spatial distribution, and the semi-logarithm econometric models were developed to evaluate the impact of land fragmentation on agricultural costs based on the field survey data of 1015 farm households in counties of Wulong, Wushan and Youyang of Chongqing, China. The results showed that the cultivated land in the study areas was severely fragmented, with the Simpson Index and the Plot Distance Index being 0.71 and 0.19, respectively. The cropland area per farm household was 6.19 mu, the number of parcels was 8.89 and the distance between the parcels and families was about 430 m, the characteristics of cropland fragmentation demonstrated "more parcels, small scale and short distance". The increased degree of cropland fragmentation has improved the production cost of agriculture. When the Simpson Index and the Plot Distance Index increased by one standard deviation, the total cost per unit of production increased by 33.8% and 16.6%, respectively. To be specific, the increased degree of land fragmentation has significantly increased labor, fertilizer and seed costs, while limiting the use of machinery and other factors. The study further found the heterogeneity in the impact of land fragmentation on production costs in different crops. In addition, high-quality cropland can alleviate the cost increase caused by the fragmentation of the plots, while expanding the scale of the plots will help to reduce production costs. The policy enlightenment was that reducing agricultural operation costs was an important measure to alleviate the cropland abandonment in mountainous areas. The government should establish a low-cost cropland transfer network and encourage land exchange between farmers or villages to expand the size of the plots and reduce the distance of cultivation, and the government should also promote the wide use of micro-farming machinery suitable for mountain agriculture.

Key words: cropland fragmentation, mountainous area, agricultural cost, land abandonment, land circulation