Metaheuristics for agricultural land use optimization. A review

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • Mohamed Mahmoud Memmah
  • Françoise Lescourret
  • Xin Yao
  • Claire Lavigne

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Birmingham University
  • Unité Mixte de Recherche 1309 Contrôle des Maladies Animales Exotiques et Emergentes, Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA)


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.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)975-998
Number of pages24
JournalAgronomy for Sustainable Development
Issue number3
Early online date21 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2015


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