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2001). These trends have encouraged in many regions monocultures and loss of mixed farming, with important impacts on land use, landscapes and biodiversity. 1). The increase in the number of large and very large cereal farms is more evident in Denmark, Germany and Spain. 1. Distribution of cereal farms by size for selected EU countries (%) 1990 1995 Small farms Large farms Very large farms 29 9 20 0 3 36 4 4 41 13 2 1 0 1 7 1 0 22 3 Denmark Germany Greece Spain France Italy Portugal UK EU 84 54 0 69 80 0 44 2001 Small farms Large farms Very large farms 79 41 0 63 68 0 36 11 19 1 7 39 4 6 35 14 3 9 0 1 10 1 1 27 4 Small farms Large farms Very large farms 77 50 0 57 56 0 33 13 27 1 9 42 5 9 35 9 4 23 0 2 19 1 2 35 2 Notes: Small farms = farms with less than 8 ESU.

It is the country’s most important crop in terms of land area and the second in terms of gross production volume. e. the teosintes), although their population sizes and distribution have been affected by general land-use practices, intensive agriculture and urbanization (Dyer-Leal and Yúnez-Naude, 2003). Much of the crop is grown by subsistence farmers on small plots under rain-fed conditions, where yields are typically low. Maize draws more heavily on soil nutrients than other grains and oilseeds, and substantial amounts of fertiliser and water are needed to maintain yields.

Soil erosion from cropland is an issue of concern regionally in Canada, particularly in the arable plains of the Canadian wheat belt. Soil erosion is widespread in the EU, although levels of severity vary across countries, and between regions within countries (EEA, 2003a). Major causes are unsustainable agricultural practices, over-grazing, large-scale farming, construction activities, and poor water and irrigation management. , 1999). The European Soil Bureau and the Pan-European Soil Erosion Risk Assessment programme show that the south European region is the most prone to soil erosion – with most erosion linked to the occurrence of high rainfall in short periods during storms.

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