Agriculture provides around 75% of the indigenous food we eat (food which can be produced in the climatic conditions of the UK) and accounts for around 70% of land use. As well as being vital for food production, agriculture helps to shape the landscape, providing important recreational, spiritual and other cultural benefits. This indicator shows annual changes in land used for agriculture in 3 categories: grassland (including sole rough grazing); crops (including horticulture and perennial crops); and uncropped arable (land left fallow or under environmental management). Agricultural production and the associated land use and management are key drivers of the environmental impacts from the sector. A key policy challenge is to de-couple production from environmental impact. The indicator may be considered a measure of pressure on the environment, a measure of condition of the land asset, or a measure of service/benefit we derive from the land. The indicator is included in the framework to provide contextual information.
Readiness and links to data
Data on the structure of the agricultural industry in England are already published annually as National Statistics.
Figure E1: Area of productive agricultural land in England, 1984 to 2022
Table E1: Area of productive agricultural land in England, 1984 to 2022
Trend description for E1
After a period of decline in the late 1980s, land use by agriculture has remained relatively stable. Similarly, the split between crops and grazing has remained relatively constant over this time, with grassland accounting for around half of agricultural land (52% in 2022) and crops a little under half (45% in 2021).
Assessment of change
Little or no change was observed for area of agricultural land over the short and medium term. In the long term, there has been a decrease in area of agricultural land in England.
Change since the start of the 25 Year Environment Plan has also been assessed. There has been little or no change in the area of agricultural land since 2018, based on 5 years of data.
Further information on this assessment, along with details on the methodology, is provided in the Assessment background page. Summaries by 25 Year Environment Plan goal and information on indicator links are presented in the Assessment results pages.
Table E1: Assessment of change
|Component||Subcomponent||Period||Date range||Percentage change||Smoothing function||Assessment of change|
|E1||Productive agricultural land||Short term||2016 to 2021||-0.28||Loess||Little or no change|
|E1||Productive agricultural land||Medium term||2011 to 2021||-0.93||Loess||Little or no change|
|E1||Productive agricultural land||Long term||1983 to 2021||-7.59||Loess||Change (decreasing)|
Note that assessment categories were assigned based on smoothed data, so percent change figures in Table E1 may differ from unsmoothed values quoted elsewhere. It is not possible to define a simplistic desired direction of change for this indicator so cannot assign ‘improvement’ or ‘deterioration’.