To support the different phases of a policy making process aimed at changing land use, distinct types of land use studies are required. This paper focuses on exploratory land use studies and their role in the phase of formulating strategic policy objectives. Exploratory land use studies contribute to a transparent discussion on policy objectives by showing ultimate technical possibilities and consequences of imposing different priorities to agro-technical, food security, socio-economic and environmental objectives. A methodology is presented in which science-driven technical information is confronted with value-driven objectives under given values of exogenous variables (e.g. regarding population growth and requirements for agricultural produce). Land use scenarios are generated showing consequences of different priorities for objectives by using natural resources and technical possibilities in different ways. Applications of such an approach are given for the global, regional and farm level, each addressing specific questions and target groups. The paper focuses on the type of results these studies produce and their role in the societal and political debate on strategic land use policy and planning. It is concluded that if exploratory land use studies are carried out in true interaction with target groups, they may well contribute to the debate and learning on sustainable land use options and a purposeful identification of effective policy instruments in a next phase of the policy making process.