Land Capability for Agriculture, Scotland


Land Capability for Agriculture, Scotland
Alternate title
Land Capability for Agriculture 1:250,000
Alternate title
Date ( Creation )
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The Land Capability Classification for Agriculture has as its objective the presentation of detailed information on soil, climate and relief in a form which will be of value to land use planners, agricultural advisers, farmers and others involved in optimising the use of land resources. The classification ranks land on the basis of its potential productivity and cropping flexibility determined by the extent to which its physical characteristics (soil, climate and relief) impose long term restrictions on its agricultural use. THE CLASSES Class 1. Land capable of producing a very wide range of crops with high yields Class 2. Land capable of producing a wide range of crops with yields less high than Class 1. Class 3. Land capable of producing good yields from a moderate range of crops. Class 4. Land capable of producing a narrow range of crops. Class 5. Land suited only to improved grassland and rough grazing. Class 6. Land capable only of use as rough grazing. Class 7. Land of very limited agricultural value. THE DIVISIONS A division is a ranking within a class. As the requirements of the crops suited to Classes 1 and 2 are fairly stringent, land in these classes has inherently low degrees of internal variability and no divisions are present. The requirements of crops grown in the remaining classes are less rigorous, consequently land included is more variable in character.


The James Hutton Institute - Colin Campbell ( Chief Executive )
AB15 8QH
United Kingdom


Graphic overview
  • thumbnail
ESRI Shapefile
  • agriculturecrop
GEMET - INSPIRE themes, version 1.0 ( Theme )
  • Land useSoil
Other constraints
no limitations on public access
Use limitation
This data was produced at a scale of 1:250,000. Larger scale data is available for the main agricultural areas of Scotland. Use is permitted under the terms of the Open Data licence included in the download.
Use limitation
The James Hutton Institute Open Data Licence
Use limitation
Larger scale data is available for more intensively managed parts of Scotland.
Topic category
  • Farming
Geographic identifier

Reference system identifier
EPSG / OSGB 1936 / British National Grid (EPSG:27700) / 7.9

Distribution format
  • ESRI Shapefile ( 1.0 )



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The classification of land for agricultural purposes in Scotland is, in the general sense, as old as farming itself but the first national surveys were the Land Utilisation Survey directed by Sir Dudley Stamp during the late thirties and the classification of arable land carried out by the staff of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland in the forties. Both, however, were based largely on observation of the land use then current. In the mid-sixties interpretations of soil survey maps, laying more stress on the properties of land and its potential for agriculture, were developed at the Macaulay Institute for Soil Research, Aberdeen. A standard system of Land Use Capability Classification, applied by the Soil Surveys of Scotland, and of England and Wales was published in 1969 (Bibby and Mackney). In 1973 following a recommendation in the White Paper 'Land Resource Use in Scotland: The Government's Observations on the Report of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs', a Standing Committee on Rural Land Use was established. One of the first subjects considered by the Committee was land use capability classification and the decision was reached that a published land classification was desirable and that a review should be carried out to establish the one most suitable to Scottish requirements. The Chief Agricultural Officer of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Mr C. Mackay, was appointed chairman of a working party and in subsequent reports (1975 and 1977) it was concluded that the future direction of land classification and mapping in Scotland should be based on the system developed by the Macaulay Institute with some modifications and additions. The reports, which were accepted by the Standing Committee, encouraged continued co-operation with England and Wales through the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service Closed Conference of Advisory Soil Scientists Land Capability Classification Working Party. This had been established in 1974 and included representatives of the Department and Colleges of Agriculture in Scotland and the Macaulay Institute. From 1974 to 1981 the discussions of this committee were of the utmost value in developing the rationale and guidelines for land classification now presented. Under the able chairmanship of Mr B. Wilkinson, the following members contributed: J. S. Bibby, J. C. Clark, H. A. Douglas, P. E. Francis, G. Goodlass, D. Hewgill, F. M. B. Houston, A. D. Hughes, D. Mackney, M. J. Silverwood. R. B. Speirs, R. W. Swain, J. F. B. Tew, A. J. Thomasson and R. J. Unwin. Organisations represented included the Agricultural Science and Land and Water Services of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Department of Agriculture for Scotland, the Scottish Colleges of Agriculture, the Meteorological Office (Agrometeorological Branch) and the Soil Surveys of Scotland, and of England and Wales. The scientific discussions held within the Working Party plus the field excursions in Scotland, England and Wales in order to study the practical application of the system in various land classification exercises contributed significantly to the system's development and final refined version. In 1980 with progress on a 1:250 000 scale, soil and land capability programme well forward in Scotland, it became necessary to produce firm proposals to allow the work to proceed. The land classification for agriculture now presented owes much to the original United States Department of Agriculture Land Capability Classification (Klingebiel and Montgomery 1961), to the Land Use Capability Classification (Bibby and Mackney 1969) and to the Survey staff who have helped to improve that classification, to the various working parties and, finally, to individual discussions, contributions from Mr E. L. Birse of the Macaulay Institute being particularly helpful. The assistance of such a wide range of authorities and people is gratefully acknowledged. Nevertheless, the responsibility for errors, omissions and short-comings rest entirely with the authors. The Land Capability Classification for Agriculture incorporates significant advances in methods of assessment and is the basis of the interpretative maps produced by the Soil Survey Department of the Macaulay Institute for Soil Research, Aberdeen. Ownership of this data set was passed to the James Hutton Institute on 1st April 2011.


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