Serbia - High Nature Value Farming
Serbia has taken the first steps in identification of HNV farmlands. According to the Environment Protection Agency in Serbia, the HNV farmlands are 1.187 million ha or 19% of the agricultural land. This is likely to be an underestimate of the total as it only captures the area of semi-natural vegetation.
This is likely to be an underestimate of the total as it only captures the area of semi-natural vegetation. The dominant type of HNV farmland habitat is grassland (around 1 million ha). Most grasslands are semi-natural, formed in the forest zone (as a consequence of deforestation), while natural or primary ones occur in places such as high mountains (above the timberline), flooded land in lowland valleys and xeric steppe and/or salinised habitats in the Vojvodina. Grasslands support the bulk of the total plant diversity and more than 60% of the country’s endemic species (Dajic Stevanovic et al., 2010).
HNV Farming Systems
In Serbia, the farming systems in the fertile plain areas in the northern (Vojvodina) and central parts of the country are dominated by intensive production of cereals and industrial crops as well as dairy farms. Their production methods are based on high inputs and high levels of mechanisation.
In the less fertile and predominantly mountainous regions of southern Serbia, the farming systems are very diversified (vegetables, vineyards, and fodder crops to support the livestock). Production methods are mostly low-input, labour-intensive and highly focused on subsistence.
The farms often contain a wood lot, seldom more than one hectare, primarily to provide fuel. The extensive grazing in the mountain woodlands enabled the development of significant vegetation diversity in the upland pastures. Some of the grasslands are used in a combination of extensive grazing and late mowing. The current grazing density is estimated at 0.33 LU/ha. (Njegovan, 2006).
From the hills and mountains of eastern, western and southern Serbia to the plains of the northern Vojvodina province and central Serbia, the country provides a wealth of habitats, many of which are agriculture-dependent: alpine boreal grasslands; apple, pear and plum orchards on the lower hills; lowland grasslands, croplands, salt pastures and marshes; alluvial forests of oak and ash, willow and poplar along the Sava, Danube, Tisza and Tamis rivers. Their conservation depends upon the continued management of the land using traditional methods.
The traditional farming systems and areas of extensively-managed agricultural land support a high diversity of wildlife species and habitats, and/or the presence of endangered wildlife species of European/global significance. Vegetation diversity of mountain pastures was developed through the extensive grazing in the woodland zone. Large areas of the mountain areas are covered with variety of plant communities. The rest of the grasslands are used in a combination of extensive grazing and late mowing. These grasslands are threatened today by the invasion of Juniperus, Vaccinium and other competitive shrubs, as well as by the uncontrolled collection of medicinal plants. Pasture abandonment is mainly linked to a severe decrease in livestock numbers – a reduction of more than 30% since 1990, for example.
Examples of low-intensity farming systems, which have the potential to be HNV farming systems, can be found within each of the three broad types of farming - livestock production, annual crops and permanent crops. Ten types of HNV farming systems have been identified¹ in Serbia.
¹ BBI-Matra supported project “Support for Agri-environment Policies and Programming” in Serbia, implemented by Avalon, IUCN, IEEP, Natura Balkanika
Low intensity farming systems in Serbia
|1. Decidious forests with high proportion of grassland cover||Low intensity agro-forestry systems with semi-natural grasslands grazed by sheep and cattle in flooded forests on the banks of the Sava, Danube, Tisa, Tamis and other lowland rivers of Vojvodina. One of the oldest agro-forestry systems in lowland Serbia.|
|2. Winter nomadic pastures on ruderal lands and stubble||These pastures are mainly located in the Srem region, in the Banat and in river valleys near high mountain ranges across the whole of Serbia – this system is called ”popaša“, and is now extinct. Transhumance grazing practices which used to be based on the “popaša” system have recently vanished from Vojvodina.|
|3. Semi-natural meadows or meadows with sown mixtures used for hay production||This farming system led to the creation of the landscapes of the Šumadija mountains in Serbia. Their extensive management was characterised by late mowing and reseeding with native species. Both practices resulted in the maintenance of a high diversity of plant and animal communities. From the 1960s until the 1980s, management was intensified. However, in the last decade, the intensity of land management has decreased with the return of more traditional practices.|
|4. Semi-intensive grazing of highland semi-natural grasslands in forest zones and natural grasslands above the forest zone||Semi-intensive livestock system based on the grazing by sheep, cattle and horses of highland semi-natural grasslands in forest zones and natural grasslands above the forest zone, typically found in the more humid zones of Western Serbia.
The absence of humans and animals in these landscapes, coupled with the arrival of invasive species, has led to a reduction in the economic and ecological value of these grasslands.
|5. Extensive nomadic grazing of highland grasslands||Extensive livestock system, with sheep, goats and cattle grazing highland grasslands in Southern, South Eastern and Eastern Serbia.
Over 100,000 ha of pasture are under extensive grazing, mainly by indigenous sheep breeds, such as Pramenka–Zeckel. Grazing is in a traditional shepherded seasonal system.
|6. Extensive grazing of closed village pastures||Extensive livestock system, with free-range pigs, sheep and poultry, grazing on semi-natural vegetation in managed orchards (mainly plums) and in forest patches, practised across all of central Serbia.|
|7. Combined use mountain grasslands||Livestock system based on grazing by sheep and cattle of valley meadows, mid-mountain combined-purpose meadows and highland pastures. It represents a half-nomadic livestock system which follows seasonal changes in vegetation at different altitudes and is still preserved in south-eastern and eastern Serbia.|
|8. Deciduous forests lopped for winter forage||An extensive mountain sheep system, with winter forage collected from deciduous forest by lopping, practised in certain mountain areas with limited resources for the production of winter feed. It is prohibited, but is still carried out in lower Danube region and eastern Serbia.|
|9. Marginal grazing on land with light, salinized or hard soils||Semi-intensive grazing systems with grazing by sheep, cattle and donkeys on sandy dunes, salinised or hard soils with high water table, typically found in the Banat region.|
|10. Grazing on wet areas in lowland villages||The centuries-old practice of exploiting communal pastures for grazing by non-ruminants (pigs and poultry, mostly duck, geese and turkeys) continues in some parts of Serbia today. However, it is currently in decline because of the threat of infection from Trichinellosis and avian influenza.|
Author : Ðordevic-Miloševic, S., Source: Cooper, T., Pezold, T. (eds.), Keenleyside, C., Ðordevic-Miloševic, S., Hart, K., Ivanov, S., Redman, M., Vidojevic, D. (2010). Developing a National Agri-Environment Programme for Serbia.
Examples of some of the HNV farming systems requiring special and targeted support in Serbia, Text and photos: Prof. Dr.Suzana Djordjevic-Milosevic
Semi-intensive grazing on highland semi-natural grasslands
Low intensity grazing by cattle and sheep in upland pastures in the coniferous forest zone, and less frequently in openings in mixed forest. This type of management has created some of the most attractive mountainous areas of Serbia. Their characteristic feature is the mountain summer shelters for animals and people “katuni”.
Special support is required to motivate people to take animals on the summer pastures as well as for the maintenance of “katuni”.
Combined use of mountain grasslands
Sheep production across two specific zones has been preserved in southeastern and eastern Serbia as a successor to a form of production in which nomadic flocks roamed from the south to the north of the country.
The recent abandonment of highland pastures is jeopardizing the survival of pastures in the lowlands due to overstocking. This in turn leads to soil degradation and erosion on slopes, while the abandoned grasslands are being invaded by juniper, blackberry and other shrubs.
Pannonian communal grazing land
Grazing on communal grasslands by non-ruminants is a traditional practice still continuing in some parts of Serbia. Until the 1960s, communal pastures were used for the rearing of geese (for meat, liver, feathers). However, the grazing of communal lands by pigs and poultry, mostly duck, geese and turkeys, is currently declining due to the threat of infection from trichinella and avian influenza.
Free range systems of Central Serbia
In an extensive livestock system, free range pigs, sheep and poultry graze on semi-natural vegetation in managed orchards (mainly plums) and in forests patches.
Today this type of small-scale farming is being modernized, with animals increasingly reared in sheds. Additionally, veterinary requirements are getting stricter which altogether threatens this traditional system.