Metaheuristics for agricultural land use optimization. A review

Mohamed-Mahmoud MEMMAH, Françoise LESCOURRET, Xin YAO, Claire LAVIGNE

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)


Agricultural landscapes presently cover about 46 % of earth terrestrial surface. This cultivated area is decreasing, whereas the global food demand is projected to increase up to 70 % in 2050. The intensification of agriculture is not a solution to this food issue because intensive agriculture has often resulted in pollution and loss of biodiversity. On the other hand, mechanistic models with optimization algorithms can be used to design alternative land uses for sustainable agriculture. Here, we present a review of metaheuristics for land use optimization reported in 50 articles including 38 case studies carried out in 16 countries. Our main conclusions are: 1) the success of metaheuristics is problem-dependent. In general, metaheuristics enable search to escape from local optima and find a good global approximation solution. 2) The choice of a given metaheuristic for solving a given problem seems to be driven by its historical use in a research team and by its popularity outside the metaheuristics research community, rather than by the characteristics of the problems to be solved and by the latest results from the metaheuristics research community. 3) Stakeholders of land use are increasingly involved at different levels of the land use optimization procedure and multi-actors decision-making methods are necessary to find trade-offs between their competing interests. 4) A future challenge is the use of parallelization techniques along with the hybridization of different metaheuristics or of metaheuristics with other optimization methods. © 2015, INRA and Springer-Verlag France.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)975-998
Number of pages24
JournalAgronomy for Sustainable Development
Issue number3
Early online date20 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This work has been realized in the framework of the project “PEERLESS” funded by the Agrobiosphere ANR program (ANR-12-AGRO-0006). Xin Yao was supported by an EPSRC grant (No. EP/I010297/1) and a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award. Mohamed-Mahmoud MEMMAH has received the support of the European Union, in the framework of the Marie-Curie FP7 COFUND People Programme, through the award of an agreenSkills’ fellowship (under grant agreement n° 267196).


  • Agricultural land use optimization
  • Economic crop planning
  • Forest management
  • Interactive decision-making
  • Metaheuristics
  • Multifunctional agriculture
  • Nature conservation
  • Water resources management


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