Co-funded by the European Union (LIFE14 CCA/GR/000928)

How can we adapt to climate change impacts on agriculture?

According to the European Environment Agency (EEA)'s recent Climate change adaptation in the agriculture sector in Europe report (2019), crop and livestock production is projected to decrease and may even have to be abandoned in parts of Europe’s southern and Mediterranean regions due to climate change.

The study says the EU's agricultural sector must make adapting to climate change a top priority if it is to improve resilience to extreme events such as droughts, heatwaves and floods.

Extreme weather already causing economic losses for EU agriculture

The economic effects of extreme weather, including the 2018 and 2019 summer heatwaves and droughts, are already being felt by the EU agricultural sector.

Source: European Commission

Why adaptation?

  • It is now clear that adaptation to the adverse effects of global warming and climate change is necessary.
  • Adaptation consists of actions responding to current and future climate change impacts and vulnerabilities.
  • It means not only protecting against adverse impacts and minimizing the damage they can cause, but also building resilience and taking advantage of any opportunities that may arise.
    • The earlier we plan adaptation responses, the better equipped we will be to cope with challenges
    • It is less expensive to take early, planned adaptation action than to pay the price of not adapting

Following, examples of farm and sectorial-level measures are provided. For a more detailed information on the available adaptation measures for addressing climate change impacts on crops, as well as, on their evaluation against a set of criteria, you may visit the respective section of the ADAPT2CLIMA tool.

Examples of farm-level measures

  • Adjusting the timing of farm operations, such as planting or sowing dates and treatments;
  • Technical solutions, such as protecting orchards from frost damage or improving ventilation and cooling systems in animal shelters;
  • Choosing crops and varieties better adapted to the expected length of the growing season and water availability, and more resistant to new conditions of temperature and humidity;
  • Adapting crops with the help of existing genetic diversity and new possibilities offered by biotechnology;
  • Improving the effectiveness of pest and disease control through for instance better monitoring, diversified crop rotations, or integrated pest management methods;
  • Using water more efficiently by reducing water losses, improving irrigation practices, and recycling or storing water;
  • Improving soil management by increasing water retention to conserve soil moisture, and landscape management, such as maintaining landscape features providing shelter to livestock.

Source: EEA, 2019

These practices should also lead to lower greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions, better management of soil, land and water resources, which in turn will help preserve local ecosystems and biodiversity.

Examples of sectorial-level measures

  • Identification of vulnerable areas and sectors and assessment of needs and opportunities for changing crops and varieties in response to climate trends;
  • Support to agricultural research and to experimental production aiming at crop selection and development of varieties best suited to new conditions;
  • Building adaptive capacity by awareness raising and provision of salient information and advice on farm management.