Growing season for agricultural crops

Indicator Specification
Indicator codes: CLIM 030
Created 11 Jul 2008 Published 08 Sep 2008 Last modified 28 Jun 2016
Note: new version is available!
Rate of change of crop growing season length 1975-2007 Length of frost-free period in selected European areas 1975-2007

Update planned for November 2012

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)


Justification for indicator selection

Increasing air temperatures are significantly affecting the duration of the growing season over large areas of Europe (Scheifinger et al., 2003). The number of consecutive days with temperatures above 0 oC can be assumed to be the period favourable for growth. The timing and length of this frost-free period is of interest to naturalists, farmers and gardeners among others. The impact on plants and animals is reported mainly as a clear trend towards an earlier start of growth in spring and its prolongation into autumn (Menzel and Fabian, 1999). A longer growing season allows the proliferation of species that have optimal conditions for development and an increase in their productivity (e.g. crop yields, insect population), and the introduction of new species (very sensitive to frost) in areas previously limited by unfavourable thermal conditions. Changes in management practices, e.g. changes in the species grown, different varieties, or adaptations of the crop calendar, can counteract the negative effects of a changing growing season (pests) and capture the benefits (agricultural crops).

Scientific references

  • References Ainsworth, E. A. and Long, S. P., 2005. What have we learned from 15 years of freeair CO2 enrichment (FACE)? A meta-analytic review of the responses of photosynthesis, canopy properties and plant production to rising CO2. New Phytol 165: 351-371. Aerts, R.; Cornelissen, J. H. C. and Dorrepaal, E., 2006. Plant performance in a warmer world: general responses of plants from cold, northern biomes and the importance of winter and spring events. Plant Ecology 82 (1-2): 65-77. 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. . Jablonski, L. M.; Wang, X. and Curtis., P. S., 2002. Plant reproduction under elevated CO2 conditions: A meta-analysis of reports on 79 crop and wild species. New Phytologist 156: 9-26. Keeling, C. D.; Chin, F. J. S.; Whorf, T. P., 1996. Increased activity of northern vegetation inferred from atmospheric CO2 measurements. Nature 382: 146-149. Kimball, B. A.; Kobayashi, K. and Bindi, M., 2002. Responses of agricultural crops to free-air CO2 enrichment. Advances in Agronomy 70: 293-368. Magnuson, J. J.; Robertson, D. M.; Benson, B. J.; Wynne, R. H.; Livingstone, D. M.; Arai, T.; Assel, R. A.; Barry, R. G.; Card, V.; Kuusisto, E.; Granin, N. G.; Prowse, T. D.; Stewart, K. M.; Vuglinski, V. S., 2000. Historical trends in lake and river ice cover in the Northern Hemisphere. Science 289: 1743-1746. McCarthy, J. J.; Canziani, O. F.; Leary, N. A.; Dokken, D. J.; White, K. S. (eds). 2001. Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Contribution of the Working Group II to the Third Assessment Report of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK; 1000 pp. Menzel, A.; Estrella, N., 2001. Plant phenological changes. Fingerprints of Climate Change -- Adapted Behaviour and Shifting Species Ranges, pp. 123-137. Walther, G. R.; Burga, C. A.; Edwards P. J. (eds). Kluwer  Academic/ Plenum, New York and London. Menzel, A.; Fabian, P., 1999. Growing season extended in Europe. Nature 397 (6721): 659. Myneni, R. B.; Keeling, C. D.; Tucker, C. J.; Asrar, G.; Nemani, R. R., 1997. Increased plant growth in the northern high latitudes from 1981 to 1991. Nature 386: 698-702. Norby, R. J.; Hartz-Rubin, J.; Verbrugge, M. J., 2003. Pheonological responses in maple to experimental atmospheric warming and CO2 enrichment. Global Change Biology 9: 1792-1801. Robeson, S.M., 2002. Increasing growing-season length in Illinois during the 20th century. Climatic Change 52 (1-2): 219-238. Root, T. L.; Price, J. T.; Hall, K. R.; Schneider, S. H.; Rosenzweig, C.; Pounds, A., 2003. Fingerprints of global warming on wild animals and plants. Nature 421: 57-60. Scheifinger, H.; Menzel, A.; Koch, E.; Peter, C., 2003. Trends of spring time frost events and phenological dates in Central Europe. Theoretical and Applied Climatology 74 (1-2): 41-51. Tait, A.; Zheng, X., 2003. Mapping frost occurrence using satellite data. Journal of Applied Meteorology 42 (2): 193-203. Tucker, C. J.; Slayback, D. A.; Pinzon, J. E.; Los, S. O.; Myneni, R. B.; Taylor, M. G., 2001. Higher northern latitude normalized difference vegetation index and growing season trends from 1982-1999. International Journal of Biometeorology 45: 184-190. Walther, G. R.; Post, E.; Convey, P.; Menzel, A.; Parmesan, C.; Beebee, T. J. C.; Fromentin, J. M.; Hoegh-Guldberg, O.; Bairlein, F., 2002. Ecological responses to recent climate change. Nature 416: 389-395. Way, J.; Zimmermann, R.; Rignot, E.; McDonald, K.; Oren, R., 1997. Winter and spring thaw as observed with imaging radar at BOREAS. Journal of Geophysical Research 102 (24): 29673-29684. Yan, Z.; Jones, P. D.; Davies, T. D.; Moberg, A.; Bergström, H.; Camuffo, D.; Cocheo, C.; Maugeri, M. ; Demarée, G.R.; Verhoeve, T.; Thoen, E.; Barriendos, M.; Rodríguez, R., Martín-Vide, J.; Yang, C., 2002. Trends of extreme temperatures in Europe and China based on daily observations. Climatic Change 53 (1-3): 355-392. Zhou, L.; Tucker, C. J.; Kaufmann, R. K.; Slayback, D.; Shabanov, N. V.; Myneni, R. B., 2001. Variations in northern vegetation activity inferred from satellite data of vegetation index during 1981 to 1999. Journal of Geophysical Research 106 (D17): 20069-20083.

Indicator definition

  • Rate of change of crop growing season length 1975-2007
  • Length of frost-free period in selected European areas 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:


No targets have been specified

Related policy documents

No related policy documents have been specified

Key policy question

How is the growing seasonal of crops?

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

External data references

Data sources in latest figures


Methodology uncertainty

Data sets uncertainty

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Hans-Martin Füssel


European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
CLIM 030
Version id: 1


DPSIR: Impact
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
European Environment Agency (EEA)
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1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100