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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Ownership characteristics and crop selection in California cropland


Land ownership is one of the primary determinants of how agricultural land is used, and property size has been shown to drive many land use decisions. Land ownership information is also key to understanding food production systems and land fragmentation, and in targeting outreach materials to improve agricultural production and conservation practices. Using a parcel dataset containing all 58 California counties, we describe the characteristics of cropland ownership across California. The largest 5% of properties — with “property” defined as all parcels owned by a given landowner — account for 50.6% of California cropland, while the smallest 84% of properties account for 25% of cropland. Cropland ownership inequality (few large properties, many small properties) was greatest in Kings, Kern and Contra Costa counties and lowest in Mendocino, Napa and Santa Clara counties. Of crop types, rice properties had the largest median size, while properties with orchard trees had the smallest median sizes. Cluster analysis of crop mixes revealed that properties with grapes, rice, almonds and alfalfa/hay tended to be planted to individual crops, while crops such as grains, tomatoes and vegetables were more likely to be mixed within a single property. Analyses of cropland ownership patterns can help researchers prioritize outreach efforts and tailor research to stakeholders' needs.

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