Timing of the cycle of agricultural crops (agrophenology)

Indicator Specification
Indicator codes: CLIM 031
Created 11 Jul 2008 Published 08 Sep 2008 Last modified 28 Jun 2016, 05:51 PM
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Modelled change of flowering date for winter wheat 1975-2007

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Justification for indicator selection

Changes in crop phenology provide important evidence of responses to recent regional climate change (IPCC, 2007). Although phenological changes are often influenced by management practices and new farming technologies, recent warming in Europe has clearly advanced a significant part of the agricultural calendar. Specific stages of growth (e.g. flowering, grain filling) are particularly sensitive to weather conditions and critical for final yield. The timing of the crop cycle (agrophenology) determines the productive success of the crop. In general, a longer crop cycle is strongly correlated with higher yields, since a longer cycle permits maximum use of the available thermal energy, solar radiation and water resources. The impacts of unfavourable meteorological conditions and extreme events vary considerably, depending on the timing of occurrence and the development stage of the crops. However, shortening of the growth period can also help avoid summer stress conditions in areas prone to drought.
European farmers have already adapted their practices to the changing climate by selecting suitable varieties or adapting the crop calendar, and can be expected to do so increasingly in the future.

Scientific references

  • References Chmielewski, F.-M.; Müller, A. and Bruns, E., 2004. Climate changes and trends in phenology of fruit trees and field crops in Germany, 1961-2000. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 121: 69-78. Chuine, I.; Yiou, P.; Viovy, N.; Seguin, B.; Daux, V. and Le Roy Ladurie, E., 2004. Grape ripening as a past climate indicator. Nature 432: 289-290. Dixon, R. K.; Brown, S.; Houghton, R. A.; Solomon, A. M.; Trexler, M. C. and Wisniewski, J., 1994. Carbon pools and flux of global forest ecosystems. Science 263: 185-190. Duchêne, E. and Schneider, C., 2005. Grapevine and climatic changes: a glance at the situation in Alsace. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 24: 93-99. ECCE PROJECT -- Final report, 2005. Preliminary Assessment of the Impacts in Spain due to the Effect of Climate Change. Carried out under the Agreement between the Ministry of the Environment of Spain and the University of Castilla La Mancha. Genovese, G. (ed.), 2004a. Methodology of the MARS Crop Yield Forecasting System. Vol. 1 to Vol. 4, EUR-report 21291 EN. Genovese, G., 2004b. Methodology of the MARS Crop Yield Forecasting System. EUR 21291 EN/1-4.  http://mars.jrc.it/marsstat/Crop_Yield_Forecasting/METAMP/ . IPCC, 2007. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Parry, K. L.; Canziani, O. F.; Palutikof, J. P.; van der Linden, P. J. and Hanson, C. E. (eds.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Indicator definition

  • Modelled change of flowering date for winter wheat 1975-2007



Policy context and targets

Context description

In April 2009 the European Commission presented a White Paper on the framework for adaptation policies and measures to reduce the European Union's vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. The aim is to increase the resilience to climate change of health, property and the productive functions of land, inter alia by improving the management of water resources and ecosystems. More knowledge is needed on climate impact and vulnerability but a considerable amount of information and research already exists which can be shared better through a proposed Clearing House Mechanism. The White Paper stresses the need to mainstream adaptation into existing and new EU policies. A number of Member States have already taken action and several have prepared national adaptation plans. The EU is also developing actions to enhance and finance adaptation in developing countries as part of a new post-2012 global climate agreement expected in Copenhagen (Dec. 2009). For more information see: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/climat/adaptation/index_en.htm


No targets have been specified

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Key policy question


Data specifications

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Data sources in latest figures


Methodology uncertainty


Data sets uncertainty


Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Further work

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General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Hans-Martin Füssel


Joint Research Centre (JRC)
European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
CLIM 031
Version id: 1
Primary theme: Climate change Climate change


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DPSIR: Impact
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
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