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Harmonised in situ data on soil moisture are not available across the EU. Modelled soil moisture content has significantly decreased in the Mediterranean region and increased in parts of northern Europe since the 1950s, as a result of past warming and precipitation changes.
Significant decreases in summer soil moisture content in the Mediterranean region and increases in north-eastern Europe are projected for the coming decades.
Yields of several rainfed crops are levelling off (e.g. wheat in some European countries) or decreasing (e.g. grapes in Spain), whereas yields of other crops (e.g. maize in northern Europe) are increasing. These changes are attributed partly to observed climate change, in particular warming.
Extreme climatic events, including droughts and heat waves, have negatively affected crop productivity in Europe during the first decade of the 21st century.
Future climate change could lead to both decreases and increases in average yield, depending on the crop type and the climatic and management conditions in the region. There is a general pattern of projected increases in productivity in northern Europe and reductions in southern Europe, but with differences between crop types.
Projected increases in extreme climatic events are expected to increase crop yield variability and to lead to yield reductions in the future throughout Europe.
The flowering of several perennial and annual crops has advanced by about two days per decade during the last 50 years.
Changes in crop phenology are affecting crop production and the relative performance of different crop species and varieties. The shortening of the grain-filling phase of cereals and oilseed crops can be particularly detrimental to yield.
Shortening of the growth phases of many crops is expected to continue, but this may be altered by selecting other crop cultivars and changing planting dates, which in some cases can lead to longer growth periods.
Climate change led to an increase in the crop water demand and thus the crop water deficit from 1995 to 2015 in large parts of southern and eastern Europe; a decrease has been estimated for parts of north-western Europe.
The projected increases in temperature will lead to increased evapotranspiration rates, thereby increasing crop water demand across Europe. This increase may partly be alleviated through reduced transpiration at higher atmospheric CO 2 levels.
The impact of increasing water requirements is expected to be most acute in southern and central Europe, where the crop water deficit and irrigation requirements are projected to increase. This may lead to an expansion of irrigation systems, even in regions currently without irrigation systems. However, this expansion may be constrained by projected reductions in water availability and increased demand from other sectors and for other uses.
The thermal growing season for agricultural crops in Europe has lengthened by more than 10 days since 1992. The delay in the end of the growing season has been more pronounced than the advance of the start of the season. The length of the growing season has increased more in northern and eastern Europe than in western and southern Europe.
The growing season is projected to increase further throughout most of Europe owing to the earlier onset of growth in spring and later senescence in autumn.
The projected lengthening of the thermal growing season would allow a northwards expansion of warm-season crops to areas that were not previously suitable. In parts of southern Europe (e.g. Spain), warmer conditions will allow crop cultivation to be shifted to the winter.
Europe has considerable areas of High Nature Value (HNV) farmland, which provide habitats for a wide range of species. Such areas are under threat, however, from both the intensification of farming and land abandonment. The mere presence of HNV farmland is not proof of sustainable management but promoting conservation and sustainable farming practices in these areas is crucial for biodiversity.
Organic farming has developed rapidly since the beginning of the 1990s and continues to do so. Between 2002 and 2011, the total area under organic agriculture in the EU-27 increased by 6% per year and in 2011 amounted to an estimated 5.4% of the utilised agricultural area (UAA) (EC, 2013).
Agricultural nitrogen surpluses (the difference between all nutrient inputs and outputs on agricultural land) show a declining trend, thereby potentially reducing environmental pressures on soil, water and air. Many countries, however, still maintain a large surplus.
For references, please go to http://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/agriculture/indicators or scan the QR code.
PDF generated on 29 Apr 2017, 11:57 PM
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