Determinants of Farmland Abandonment on the Urban–Rural Fringe

Ting Zhou*, Eric Koomen, Xinli Ke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


China’s urban explosion has resulted in a substantial loss of agricultural production on the fringes of many cities. Farmland is not only converted into urban uses but also taken out of production because it has lost its value for those who can farm it. This farmland abandonment process has received little research attention. This paper studies the abandonment of farmland around the rapidly urbanizing city of Wuhan and aims to identify its important determinants based on an extensive field survey among local farmers. Around 800 semi-structured field interviews were conducted to capture the parcel and location characteristics, farming practices, and household characteristics. Important parcel-related drivers of land abandonment are lack of family members to work the land and fragmentation of parcels. Spatial characteristics are less important, except for the presence of certain soil types that favour cultivation and designation under the farmland protection policy. The planted crop species and the option to transfer land to other farmers are important farming practices to continue cultivation. Moreover, farmers with a higher farming income and lower education levels are less likely to abandon their farmland. We suggest that land use policies can help in preventing further farmland abandonment by steering urban development away from the most suitable soils for farming and concentrating development to limit the fragmentation of parcels. Strengthening the land market and removing the remaining barriers for farmers to transfer land to colleagues can further help to keep farmland in production.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-384
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • China
  • Farmland abandonment
  • Peri-urban farmland use
  • Wuhan
  • urban proximity
  • urbanisation


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