- Flowering of several perennial crops has advanced by about two days per decade in recent decades.
- Changes in timing of crop phenology are affecting crop production and the relative performance of different crop species and varieties.
- The shortening of crop growth phases in many crops is expected to continue. The shortening of the grain filling phase of cereals and oilseed crops can be particularly detrimental to yield.
How is climate change affecting the seasonal cycle of agricultural crops across Europe?
Change of flowering date for winter wheat
Note: This figure shows the rate of change of the flowering date for winter wheat. The flowering date is defined as the day at which a modelization of the winter wheat reaches a development state of 100 in a scale 0 - 200 defined for the WOFOST growth model (Van Keulen H, Wolf J (1986) Modelling of agricultural production: weather soils and crops, Simulation monographs. Pudoc, Wageningen). The map shows the yearly change rate in days per year calculated for the period January 1975 - December 2010.
- Monitoring Agricultural ResourceS (MARS) provided by Joint Research Centre (JRC)
Projected change in dates of flowering and maturation for winter wheat
Note: This figure shows the model estimated mean change in dates of flowering and full maturation for winter wheat for the period 2031–2050 compared with 1975–1994 for the RACMO (KNMI) and HadRCM3 (Hadley Centre.HC) projections under the A1B emission scenario.
- Changes in flowering and maturity time of cereals in Northern Europe under climate change provided by University of Aarhus
Changes in the phenological phases of several perennial crops in Europe, such as the advance in the start of the growing season of fruit trees (2.3 days/10 years), cherry tree blossom (2.0 days/10 years) and apple tree blossom (2.2 days/10 years), in line with increases of up to 1.4 ºC in mean annual air temperature have been observed in Germany during 1961–2000 [i]. Sowing or planting dates of several agricultural crops have been advanced, for example by 5 days for potatoes in Finland (1965–1999), 10 days for maize and sugar beet in Germany (1961–2000) and 20 days for maize in France (1974–2003) [ii].
An analysis of the modelled flowering date for winter wheat in Europe between 1975 and 2010 shows a general and clear increasing trend, which is most pronounced in north-western Europe (Figure 1). In parts of Europe the modelled flowering date has advanced by 0.3–0.5 days per year. This modelled advance in flowering date probably exceeds what is observed in reality, as day length responses in the plants and farmers’ choices of cultivars with longer growth duration will reduce this response.
With the projected warming of the climate in Europe, further reductions in the number of days required for flowering in cereals and maturity may be expected throughout Europe (Figure 2). The modelled changes in flowering dates in Figure 2 include the expected effects of changes in cultivar choice on flowering and maturity dates. Since many plants (including cereals) in Europe require long days to flower, the effect of warming on date of flowering is smaller than would otherwise be expected.
The flowering date for winter wheat is projected to show the greatest advance in western parts of Europe, but with a large uncertainty due to uncertainty in the underlying climate change projections. The advance in maturity date is larger than the advance in flowering date, leading to a shortening of the grain filling period, which will negatively affect yields. An independent study with a different phenology model and other climate change projections found similar advances in flowering date for winter wheat for England and Wales (14–16 days by 2050) [iii].
[i] Frank-M Chmielewski, Antje Müller, and Ekko Bruns, „Climate changes and trends in phenology of fruit trees and field crops in Germany, 1961-2000“, Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 121, Nr. 1–2 (Enero 2004): 69–78, doi:10.1016/S0168-1923(03)00161-8.
[ii] IPCC, „IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007 (AR4)“, 2007, http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/publications_and_data_reports.shtml.
[iii] M.A. Semenov, „Impacts of climate change on wheat in England and Wales“, Journal of the Royal Society Interface 6 (2009): 343–350, doi:10.1098/rsif.2008.0285.
Indicator specification and metadata
- Observed change in flowering date for winter wheat
- Projected change in dates of flowering and maturation for winter wheat
Policy context and targets
In April 2013 the European Commission presented the EU Adaptation Strategy Package (http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/adaptation/what/documentation_en.htm). This package consists of the EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change /* COM/2013/0216 final */ and a number of supporting documents. One of the objectives of the EU Adaptation Strategy is Better informed decision-making, which should occur through Bridging the knowledge gap and Further developing Climate-ADAPT as the ‘one-stop shop’ for adaptation information in Europe. Further objectives include Promoting action by Member States and Climate-proofing EU action: promoting adaptation in key vulnerable sectors. Many EU Member States have already taken action, such as by adopting national adaptation strategies, and several have also prepared action plans on climate change adaptation.
The European Commission and the European Environment Agency have developed the European Climate Adaptation Platform (Climate-ADAPT, http://climate-adapt.eea.europa.eu/) to share knowledge on observed and projected climate change and its impacts on environmental and social systems and on human health; on relevant research; on EU, national and subnational adaptation strategies and plans; and on adaptation case studies.
No targets have been specified.
Related policy documents
Climate-ADAPT: Mainstreaming adaptation in EU sector policies
Overview of EU sector policies in which mainstreaming of adaptation to climate change is ongoing or explored
Climate-ADAPT: National adaptation strategies
Overview of activities of EEA member countries in preparing, developing and implementing adaptation strategies
DG CLIMA: Adaptation to climate change
Adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they can cause, or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise. It has been shown that well planned, early adaptation action saves money and lives later. This webportal provides information on all adaptation activities of the European Commission.
EU Adaptation Strategy Package
In April 2013 the European Commission adopted an EU strategy on adaptation to climate change which has been welcomed by the EU Member States. The strategy aims to make Europe more climate-resilient. By taking a coherent approach and providing for improved coordination, it will enhance the preparedness and capacity of all governance levels to respond to the impacts of climate change.
Methodology for indicator calculation
A map has been produced querying a database internal to Joint Research Centre (JRC) containing crop growth data derived with the WOFOST model (Van Keulen H, Wolf J (1986) Modelling of agricultural production: weather soils and crops,Simulation monographs. Pudoc, Wageningen) These data are derived in the frame of the MARSOP 3 contract, complying with Council Regulation (EC) No 78/2008 of 21 January 2008 on the measures to be undertaken by the Commission in 2008-2013 making use of the remote-sensing applications developed within the framework of the common agricultural policy, Official Journal of the European Union, L 25 of 30 January 2008, p. 1.
Methodology for gap filling
No methodology references available.
Data sets uncertainty
Effects of climate change on the growing season and crop phenology can be monitored directly, partly through remote sensing (growing season) and partly through monitoring of specific phenological events such as flowering. There is no common monitoring network for crop phenology in Europe, and data on this therefore has to be based on various national recordings, often from agronomic experiments. Crop yield and crop requirements for irrigation are not only affected by climate change, but also by management and a range of socio-economic factors. The effects of climate change on these factors therefore have to be estimated indirectly using agrometeorological indicators and through statistical analyses between climatic variables and factors such as crop yield.
The projections of climate change impacts and adaptation in agriculture rely heavily on modelling, and it needs to be recognised that there is often a chain of uncertainty involved in the projections going from emission scenario, through climate modelling, downscaling and to assessments of impacts using an impact model. The extent of all these uncertainties is rarely quantified, even though some studies have assessed uncertainties related to individual components. The crop modelling community has only recently started addressing uncertainties related to modelling impacts of climate change on crop yield and effect of possible adaptation options, and so far only few studies have involved livestock systems. Future studies also need to better incorporate effects of extreme climate events as well as biotic hazards (e.g. pests and diseases).
Further information on uncertainties is provided in Section 1.7 of the EEA report on Climate change, impacts, and vulnerability in Europe 2012 (http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/climate-impacts-and-vulnerability-2012/)
No uncertainty has been specified
Changes in flowering and maturity time of cereals in Northern Europe under climate change
provided by University of Aarhus
Modelling of agricultural production: weather, soils and crops.
provided by Wageningen University (WUR)
Climate change (Primary topic)
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
- CLIM 031
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoHans-Martin Füssel
EEA Management Plan2012 2.0.1 (note: EEA internal system)
Frequency of updates
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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