Agricultural trajectories in a Mediterranean mountain region (Priorat, NE Spain) as a consequence of vineyard conversion plans
In mountain regions of Mediterranean European countries, recent economic and technologic changes have involved the intensification of crops, based on heavy land levelling and/or terracing, and the abandonment or marginalization of traditional land use management. These trends have been reinforced by the subsidy policies of the European Union. The objectives of the present research were: (a) to contribute to the understanding of agricultural trajectories and farming systems that are entirely transforming the social and environmental characteristics of Mediterranean mountain areas, focusing on the analysis of the main agricultural trajectories in a sample area of this environment (the Priorat region, NE Spain) over the last 20 years (1986–2005); and (b) to analyse the farming systems that coexist in the region with regard to the landscape impacts they involve and the influence of CAP subsidies in each one. A methodological approach based on the combination of multivariate statistical techniques was used to obtain a better knowledge of the heterogeneity of farming systems on a local scale. The results show that, although most farms cultivate a mosaic of traditional crops and have small mechanized areas, a minority group follows a high intensification and specialization strategy based on new mechanized-terraced vineyards. This group only comprises 12 per cent of the farmers in the region, but owns 61 per cent of the new vineyard plantations and 42 per cent of the total agricultural land, receiving most of the subsidies from the EU vineyard conversion and restructuring policy (68 per cent of total Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidies assigned to the region). Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.