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This study analyses the effectiveness of the agro-environmental policies of the European Union for North-Eastern Sicily (Messina Province) where lemons have been harvested on terraces for hundreds of years. Since the latter years of the 1980s, there has been a gradual decline due to a drop in the value of lemons, an increase in labour costs and in non-agricultural use of land. Abandonment of farms has gradually brought about a deterioration in the agricultural landscape and given rise to erosion, due, principally, to the destruction of dry stone walls. The analysis is based on GIS photointerpretations of the variations in cultivated areas and the consequent mutations of the agricultural landscape in a sub-area of Messina Province which was the subject of similar analysis in 1963. The results have highlighted that in the study area there has been a drastic reduction in the area under lemon cultivation. This continuing decline is likely to be difficult to reverse in the coming years because of negative average farm incomes. This negative trend in profitability has occurred despite the many legislative incentives for lemon farms. The results seem to suggest a revision of current strategies to protect agricultural landscape especially in the marginal rural areas of the European Union.


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