This paper presents an extension to the Constrained Cellular Automata (CCA) land use model of White et al. [White, R., Engelen, G., Uljee, I., 1997. The use of constrained cellular automata for high-resolution modelling of urban land-use dynamics. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 24(3), 323–343] to make it better suited for modelling the dynamics of shifting cultivation. In the extended model the time passed since the last land use transition of a location is a factor of its land use potential. The model can now account for the gradual decrease in soil fertility after an area of forest has been cleared for cultivation and also capture the process of regeneration once the plot is fallowed. The model is applied for the Ruhunupura area of Sri Lanka where chena, a particular practice of shifting cultivation, is a common land use that dominates the landscape dynamics. The model is calibrated for the period 1985–2001 and the results are assessed in terms of location to location overlap as well as structural similarity at multiple scales. These results give confidence in the representation of land use dynamics for the main land use classes. On the basis of a long term scenario run for the period 2001–2030, it is verified that the model captures stylized facts related to chena dynamics, in particular shortening fallow periods and increasingly long cultivation periods of chena, as a result of increasing land use pressure. We conclude that the model extension is crucial for regions with substantial areas of shifting cultivation. The extension affects not only the land use class shifting cultivation, but also through spatio-temporal interactions that are already present in the original CCA model the whole land use system is better represented.