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Key message

In the period 2018–2020, the cultivation of agricultural land decreased and the urbanization of soil/land is intensifying and thus causing irreversible soil degradation and loss of natural resources. Changes in the use of larger areas are noticeable mainly on the outskirts of settlements for the needs of industry and trade and along the routes of larger infrastructure facilities. However, small changes prevail in terms of scale due to dispersed individual construction, expansion and modernization of facilities and smaller infrastructure.

Urbanization and, above all, the sealing of best agricultural soils has both, the agricultural and environmental impacts: it reduces the possibility of self-sufficiency in food production and reduces the range of ecosystem services provided by high quality agricultural land. In 2020, Slovenia had 853 m2 of arable land per capita, which is extremely little compared to other countries and the estimate that approximately 2,500 m2 of arable land per capita is sufficient for adequate food security and self-sufficiency.

Land use as an indicator represents the use and management of space and land as basic natural resources. Land use is the result of natural conditions, needs, socio-economic development of society and historical conditions. Thus, in the last two to three decades in Slovenia, the development of society and the country's involvement in the EU have been reflected to a much greater extent. Industrialization and changes in the field of urbanism and transport are reflected in the growing areas occupied by these sectors in Slovenia.

The change in land use is shown by the change in the areas occupied by land use categories in 2002 and 2020 included in the regularly updated land use database maintained by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food (MAFF, 2002–2020).

The KM10 indicator is divided into four sub indicators:

  • Structure of agricultural land use in Slovenia in 2020 (KM10-1)
  • Change in the agricultural land area by type of use in the period 2018–2020    (KM10-2)
  • Urbanization of land by type of use in the periods between 2009–2020 (KM10-3)
  • Quality of urbanized soil in the period 2002–2020 (KM10-4)


In addition to the basic categories (see the chapter "Methodology"), an analysis of land urbanization was also made - that is, areas that have been changed from other types of land use to urban, i.e. built-up and related land (Figure KM10-3).

The term urbanization of land refers to the expansion of urban areas to neighbouring, agricultural, forest or (semi) natural land uses. Urbanization is mostly a negative process for the soil. It covers a wide range of soil degradations (complete sealing, mixing, compaction, pollution) that alter the soil, reduce the soil's ability to perform agricultural and environmental functions, affect the circulation of matter and energy in the environment and, often polluted, pose a risk to human health. Physical removal or. sealing, represents the destruction of the soil and thus the permanent reduction of the environmental functions of the soil. The following are considered to be urbanized:  
I) land next to buildings that is more or less changed during the construction itself (e.g. removed upper A horizons or mixed horizons - the quality of such floors is usually significantly reduced) 
II) "covered" land with e.g. canopies and bridges that reduce the performance of environmental soil functions. Fully built-up land is considered land that is covered with a building or infrastructure facility - the soil performs only the function of a carrier medium) and the soil is removed to the parent base (quarries, gravel pits, clay pits).

Soil urbanization reduces the ability to provide at least one of the essential environmental soil services (biomass production and nutrient circulation, filtration/purification of surface and meteoric waters, decomposition and binding of pollutants, containment and binding of atmospheric CO2) and construction usually terminates these services.

Soil quality is a complex indicator that in one number defines the essential property of soil - fertility and at the same time the ability to provide ecosystem soil services. Soil quality is defined by the average soil quality index (SQI) expressed in points between 1 (worst soil) and 100 (best soil). SQI points are therefore a reflection of the evaluation of agricultural and environmental soil quality.


Figure KM10-1: Structure of agricultural land use in Slovenia in 2020

MAFF; calculations by AIS (2021)

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Meadows [ha]

Fields and gardens [ha]

Orchards [ha]

Vineyards [ha]

Hop fields [ha]

Olive plantations [ha]

Overgrown cultivated land   [ha]

Mixed land use [ha]

Less present agricultural land uses [ha]

Uncultivated agricultural land [ha]

Forest and other tree and bushes overgrown surfaces [ha]

Built-up land and related [ha]

Natural and semi-natural land uses [ha]

Surface waters [ha]

Meadows [%]

Fields and gardens [%]

Orchards [%]

Vineyards [%]

Hop fields [%]

Olive plantations [%]

Overgrown cultivated land   [%]

Mixed land use [%]

Less present agricultural land uses [%]

Uncultivated agricultural land [%]























Figure KM10-2: Change in the agricultural land area by type of use in the period 2018–2020

MAFF; calculations by AIS (2021)

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Fields and gardens









Hop fields



Olive plantations



Overgrown cultivated land  



Mixed land use



Less present agricultural land uses



Uncultivated agricultural land



Forest and other tree and bushes overgrown surfaces



Built-up land and related



Natural and semi-natural land uses



Surface waters



Figure KM10-3: Urbanization of land by type of use in the periods between 2009–2020

MAFF; calculations by AIS (2021)

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Agricultural area[ha]Forest[ha]Other[ha]Total[ha]
Figure KM10-4: Quality of urbanized soil in the period 2002–2020

AIS, Centre for Soil and Environment (2021)

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High quality soil (TS > 54)[%]

Medium quality soil (TS 29 - 53)[%]

Low quality soil (TS <= 28)[%]









2018 –2020




Quality of soils in Slovenia





  • Reducing the scope of urbanization of quality soils/land (or rational environmental planning);
  • Sustainable management of natural resources (soil, water and minerals).


Soil is an important natural resource that enables the formation and life of terrestrial ecosystems. Soil makes human life possible. In the past, soils were valued primarily by the function of food production in agriculture or wood growth in forestry. However, in addition to these primary soil functions, it also provides important ecosystem services (e.g., water filtration and groundwater recharge, neutralization of pollutants; CO2 sequestration, nutrient and energy circulation, etc.). Soils of agricultural land are of better quality than soils of other land uses and, because of their properties and versatility, are capable of providing ecosystem services in addition to food production.

In the structure of agricultural land (Figure KM10-1), grassland still predominated in 2020 (53.5%), followed by fields and gardens (27.4%), intensive and extensive orchards (4.9%), vineyards (2.8%), olive groves (0.4%) and hop fields (0.3%): a significant proportion of mixed land use (5.2%) and overgrown agricultural land (3.7%). On 1st January 2020, Slovenia had 2,095,861 inhabitants (SORS, 2021), which means that the population of Slovenia has 853 m2 of fields and gardens, which is extremely low compared to the data of comparable developed countries that have 3,200 m2 of fields and gardens per capita (World Bank), and an estimate that about 2,500 m2 of fields and gardens per capita are sufficient for adequate food security and self-sufficiency.

The analysis of the MKGP database on land use in 2018-2020 shows that between 2018 and 2020, the volume of overgrown land, mixed land use and uncultivated agricultural land in Slovenia increased, mainly at the expense of productive agricultural land, i.e. fields and gardens, grassland, vineyards and, to a lesser extent, orchards. Thus, the total volume of vineyards decreased by 874 ha (-4.7%), grassland by 3,686 ha (-1.0%) and, to a lesser extent, the share of fields and gardens by 2,728 ha (-0.1%) (Figure KM10-2). Investments in olive cultivation lead to a further increase in olive groves by 81 ha (3.4%). Mixed land use increased significantly by 537 ha (0.03%), indicating additional diversity in agricultural use and production methods. The area of uncultivated agricultural land increased by 3,349 ha (0.2%). This includes land not cultivated for social or other reasons, set-aside land, land freshly plowed but not planted; agricultural land temporarily out of use or not cultivated due to infrastructure construction; land with a fence for animals, not covered with grassland, and others.

Urbanization in Slovenia is spatially very dispersed. Changes in the use of larger areas can be observed mainly at the edge of settlements for industrial and commercial needs and along the routes of major infrastructure facilities (e.g. motorways and expressways). In terms of scale, small-scale changes are dominated by scattered individual buildings, refurbishments, extensions and upgrades of facilities and minor infrastructure. However, in aggregate they become very significant.

The areas defined as built-up and associated land occupy 5.6% of the area of Slovenia in 2020 and have increased by 1.2% compared to the previous period. Thus, we observe a trend of re-increase of built-up agricultural land (Figure KM10-3).

Figure KM10-4 shows the agricultural quality of soils that have been changed and built on due to urbanization of usually agricultural land. An examination of the quality composition of the urbanized soils shows that the built-up soils were of better quality to a greater extent. Throughout Slovenia, about 50% of soils are of medium quality (29-53 TS), 29% of soils are of better quality (TS 54) and 21% of soils are of poorer quality (TS = 28). Compared to previous periods, when the construction of the best agricultural land was particularly pronounced, we can also observe for the 2018–2020 period that more urbanized land is of medium quality, then of better quality, and to a lesser extent of poorer quality.

Urbanization of land is a negative trend, as it is irreversible destruction of a natural resource, at least for the era of human civilization. Slovenia is a country with modest natural resources, so the extent of urbanization in the last two or three decades is a cause for concern. Mainly because we urbanize the best agricultural soils to a much greater extent and the agriculturally and ecologically poor soils to a lesser extent.






Other sources and literature

Evropska komisija. 2006. Sporočilo komisije svetu, Evropskemu parlamentu, Evropskemu ekonomsko-socialnemu odboru in Odboru regij.

SURS. 2021. Prebivalstvo in gospodinjstva v popisih, Slovenija, večletno (tabela H130S).

Uradni list RS. 2020. Resolucija o nacionalnem programu varstva okolja za obdobje 2020–2030.

World Bank. 2018. Arable land (hectares per person).

European Commission (2011) A resource-efficient Europe - flagship initiative under the Europe 2020 Strategy.

Republika Slovenija (2016) Uredba o območjih za kmetijstvo in pridelavo hrane, ki so strateškega pomena za Republiko Slovenijo (Uradni list RS, št. 71/16)