Establishment of intensive grazing areas on low productive slopes [Greece]


technologies_2900 - Greece

Completeness: 90%

1. General information

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:
Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Interactive Soil Quality assessment in Europe and China for Agricultural productivity and Environmental Resilience (EU-iSQAPER)
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Agricultural University of Athens (AUAb) - Greece

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


1.4 Declaration on sustainability of the described Technology

Is the Technology described here problematic with regard to land degradation, so that it cannot be declared a sustainable land management technology?



This technology favors soil erosion and land degradation for a short period (about one month) after sowing the plants.

2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

This technology consists of (a) ploughing the soil, (b) sowing the plants usually vetch or oat or in combination in November and (c) grazing the growing plants during spring. The main purpose of this technology is to increase the produced palatable biomass in a grazing land in which the biomass production is very low under natural conditions.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


The technology is applied on semi-arid areas of Asteroussia Mountains of Crete used as grazing land with an annual rainfall between 501-750 mm. These areas are usually highly degraded, characterized by steep mountainous slopes (31-60%). This technology was mainly found in shallow (depth: 21-50 cm), moderately fine textured soils which moderate concentrations of soil organic matter (1-3%). The stock breeders in the region use a special regime for transferring livestock grazing rights from the communities to individuals. Nowadays the off farm income of breeders is between 10-50% of their total income.

Looking back, in the early 1950s to the 1980s the Asteroussia Mountains were a livestock-specialized area. Livestock production was based on controlled summer grazing in the mountains and overwintering in the lowlands. After the early 1960s, the area increasingly felt the impact of agricultural mechanization and - by consequence - excessive under-occupied rural labor force, which led to disproportionate out-migration from the area. In areas where limited natural capital was already fully utilized, such as in Asteroussia Mountains, further growth through increasing flocks was only possible by importing fodder. In a parallel, increasing intensification of agriculture in the nearby Messara plain limited the opportunities for the tradition of transhumance. Throughout the mid-1980s–2010s the economy remained livestock-dominated but the population decline continued. However, the presence of foreign migrants offering cheap labor from the early 1990s onwards contributed to keep many farms active.

Coming back to the technology, it consists of: (a) clearing natural vegetation, usually perennial shrubs accompanied with annual plants including mainly grasses, (b) sowing of high value palatable plant species for animals such as oat, vetch, etc. during winter, (c) allowing plants to grow adequately, and (d) grazing by the animals mainly during spring for a period of about one month, and (e) keeping the land bare until next wet cultivation period starts. The purpose is to increase the available biomass for the grazing animals in areas of low productivity of natural vegetation suitable for them. The major activities consists of clearing the land, plowing usually by a bulldoze type tractor, sowing the seeds and adding appropriate fertilizers. However, the establishment of this technology may face problems in clearing natural vegetation, if the existing Greek institutional framework does not allow doing it. Land degradation and desertification are very frequent processes in semi-arid areas and both processes have been enhanced in the last decades by climatic variations and human activities. The EU-funded research project DESIRE in Eastern and Western Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia have identified soil erosion, forest fires, and overgrazing among the most important causes of land degradation. The main benefit of this technology therefore is the increase in the amount of high quality palatable biomass for the grazing animals in degraded lands. Land users like this technology, if the number of animals is high, as without the technology they face problems of feeding them. However, such an action increases the cost of animal production such as milk. In addition, soil erosion problems are expected since land remains bare for some period of the year especially after sowing the plants.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

General remarks regarding photos:

Down-slope ploughing is more secure for the farmer and less energy consumption for the machine used.

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment



Region/ State/ Province:

Crete, Heraklion province

Further specification of location:

Asteroussia Mountain, Paranimfi

Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • evenly spread over an area
If precise area is not known, indicate approximate area covered:
  • < 0.1 km2 (10 ha)

Isolated fields with relatively deep soils and low slope gradient

2.6 Date of implementation

If precise year is not known, indicate approximate date:
  • 10-50 years ago

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Specify how the Technology was introduced:
  • as part of a traditional system (> 50 years)
Comments (type of project, etc.):

The technology continues to be applied since farmers are trying to produce more palatable biomass for the grazing animals as the productivity of the land with the natural vegetation is low.

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • improve production
  • create beneficial economic impact

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied

Grazing land

Grazing land

Extensive grazing:
  • Ranching
Intensive grazing/ fodder production:
  • Improved pastures
Animal type:
  • goats
  • sheep
Products and services:
  • meat
  • milk

Number of growing seasons per year: 1

Livestock density: 20-25 animals/ha

3.3 Has land use changed due to the implementation of the Technology?

Has land use changed due to the implementation of the Technology?
  • Yes (Please fill out the questions below with regard to the land use before implementation of the Technology)

Natural vegetation consisting mainly of shruby vegetation.

3.4 Water supply

Water supply for the land on which the Technology is applied:
  • rainfed

3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • pastoralism and grazing land management

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

agronomic measures

agronomic measures

  • A1: Vegetation/ soil cover
vegetative measures

vegetative measures

  • V2: Grasses and perennial herbaceous plants

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

soil erosion by water

soil erosion by water

  • Wt: loss of topsoil/ surface erosion

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • reduce land degradation

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

The technical specifications of the technology are known to almost all the people working on animal feeding. It requires a field of at least one hectare with the following soil characteristics: (a) soil depth of at least 30 cm, (b) soil texture medium to fine, (c) slope gradient less than 25%. In addition, the annual rainfall must be greater than 350 mm with an annual air temperature higher than 12° C.


Costas Kosmas



4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

Specify how costs and inputs were calculated:
  • per Technology area
Indicate size and area unit:

one hectare

Specify currency used for cost calculations:
  • USD
Indicate average wage cost of hired labour per day:


4.3 Establishment activities

Activity Timing (season)
1. Clearing the field by mouldboard plough. November

4.4 Costs and inputs needed for establishment

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Clearing the field person - days 2.0 40.0 80.0 100.0
Equipment Tractor equiped with a mouldboard 1 1.0 60.0 60.0 100.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 140.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology in USD 140.0

4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. Ploughing once per year
2. Fertilization once per year
3. Sowing once per year

4.6 Costs and inputs needed for maintenance/ recurrent activities (per year)

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Ploughing person-days 0.2 40.0 8.0 100.0
Labour Sowing person-days 0.2 40.0 8.0 100.0
Labour Fertilizing person-days 0.2 400.0 80.0 100.0
Equipment Tractor equiped with a mouldboard 1 0.5 60.0 30.0 100.0
Plant material Seed Kg/ha 250.0 0.2 50.0 100.0
Fertilizers and biocides Fertilization Kg/ha 350.0 0.4 140.0 100.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 316.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology in USD 316.0

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

Fertilizers and seeds

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Specify average annual rainfall (if known), in mm:


Specifications/ comments on rainfall:

Low-elevation areas receive an annual rainfall ranging between 500-750 mm, while the upper mountainous area (highest elevation: 1231 m at the sea level) receives up to 1250 mm of rain.

Indicate the name of the reference meteorological station considered:

Hellenic National Meteorological Service, station of Gortina

Agro-climatic zone
  • semi-arid

The majority of the area is characterized by an average air temperature ranging between 15°C and 18°C. Rainfall is falling from late fall to middle spring. The ETo (Potential Evapotranspiration) is high receiving values up to 1650 mm.

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.
Indicate if the Technology is specifically applied in:
  • not relevant
Comments and further specifications on topography:

Hilly areas of various slopes and landforms. The Technology is only suitable for slope gradients less than 25%.

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • medium (loamy, silty)
  • fine/ heavy (clay)
Soil texture (> 20 cm below surface):
  • medium (loamy, silty)
  • fine/ heavy (clay)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • medium (1-3%)
If available, attach full soil description or specify the available information, e.g. soil type, soil PH/ acidity, Cation Exchange Capacity, nitrogen, salinity etc.

These soils are characterized by a surface A-horizon usually 12-18 cm thick and an underlying cambic B-horizon. Leptosols or Cambisols are the dominant soil units in the area. Soils are mainly moderately fine-textured. The 15-30 cm soil depth class is dominant throughout the area. Relatively deep soils (class 30-60 cm) have been mapped in patches. Some of these areas are used as cropland and grazing land. Slope gradient ranges between 2% and 60%. The slope class 35-60% is the dominant class covering the 49% of the total land. The minimum soil depth necessary for the Technology is 30 cm.

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

> 50 m

Availability of surface water:

poor/ none

Water quality (untreated):

good drinking water

Is water salinity a problem?


Is flooding of the area occurring?


5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • high
Habitat diversity:
  • medium
Comments and further specifications on biodiversity:

The most important land cover types are schlerophyllous vegetation, transitional woodland-shrubs and sparsely vegetated areas covering the 88% of the total area. The rest of the area is covered by agricultural crops, mainly olive trees and cereals. The dominant woody plant species in the area include Olea sylvestris, Olea Europa, Salix alba (along watercourses), Pyrus amygdaliformis, Prunus webbii, Thymus capitatus, Salvia triloba, Flomis lanata, Flomis fruticosa, Sarcopoterium spinosum, Calicotome vilosa, Scilla maritime, Asfodelus aestivus, Euphorbia characias. Overgrazing coupled with frequent fires shaped the vegetation pattern in the area determining the predominance of the less palatable fire-tolerant plant species. The above-mentioned state of biodiversity existed before clearing the land even in degraded areas.

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Sedentary or nomadic:
  • Sedentary
Market orientation of production system:
  • mixed (subsistence/ commercial)
Off-farm income:
  • 10-50% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • average
Individuals or groups:
  • individual/ household
Level of mechanization:
  • mechanized/ motorized
  • men
Age of land users:
  • middle-aged

5.7 Average area of land used by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha
Is this considered small-, medium- or large-scale (referring to local context)?
  • medium-scale

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

Land ownership:
  • state
  • individual, titled
Land use rights:
  • communal (organized)
Water use rights:
  • communal (organized)

Nowadays in Crete livestock grazing is allowed due to a special regime for transferring grazing rights from the communities to individuals (Papanastasis, 1993).

5.9 Access to services and infrastructure

  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
technical assistance:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
employment (e.g. off-farm):
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
roads and transport:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
drinking water and sanitation:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
financial services:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


fodder production

Comments/ specify:

Increase in biomass production for feeding the animals

animal production

Comments/ specify:

In consequence of increased fodder production

Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

surface runoff

Comments/ specify:

There are not available data on surface runoff for the area.


soil moisture

Quantity before SLM:


Quantity after SLM:


soil loss

Quantity before SLM:


Quantity after SLM:


Comments/ specify:

Increase in soil erosion due to removal of natural vegetation

Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

plant diversity

Comments/ specify:

Because the natural vegetation is cleared.

6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

downstream flooding

Comments/ specify:

The soil sediments are transported in the low land of Messara valley or into the sea.

6.3 Exposure and sensitivity of the Technology to gradual climate change and climate-related extremes/ disasters (as perceived by land users)

Gradual climate change

Gradual climate change
Season increase or decrease How does the Technology cope with it?
annual temperature increase moderately

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:


How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:


6.5 Adoption of the Technology

  • > 50%
Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 91-100%

6.6 Adaptation

Has the Technology been modified recently to adapt to changing conditions?


6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
The advantage of the technology is the increase of biomass production for feeding the animals in areas of low natural grass production.
Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
The advantage of the technology is the increase of biomass production for feeding the animals in areas of low natural grass production.

6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the land user’s view How can they be overcome?
Decline of biodiversity
Create some problems of soil erosion during installation
Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
Decline of biodiversity
Soil erosion at the initial stage of ploughing the land From the increase in soil plant cover

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

  • field visits, field surveys

Mapping the whole area in a scale 1:30,000

  • interviews with land users

Land users have complete questionnaires during the execution of the EU research project LEDDRA

When were the data compiled (in the field)?


7.2 References to available publications

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Costas Kosmas, Vassilis Detsis, Mina Karamesouti, Kate Kounalaki, Penny Vassiliou and Luca Salvati. 2015. Exploring Long-Term Impact of Grazing Management on Land Degradation in the Socio-Ecological System of Asteroussia Mountains, Greece Land 4:541-559 doi:10.3390/land4030541.

Available from where? Costs?


Title, author, year, ISBN:

Papanastasis, V., 1993. Legal status of land tenure and use and its implication for open landscapes of western Crete. Landscape and Urban Planning, 24, 273-277.

7.3 Links to relevant online information

Title/ description:

European framework EC-DG RTD, 7th Framework Research Programme (sub-priority ENV-2009-, Research on Desertification Process and Land Degradation, project LEDDRA (243857): Land and Ecosystem Degradation and Desertification: Assessing the Fit of Responses.

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