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Agriculture and Horticulture

Agriculture and horticulture in numbers


Agriculture accounts for only a small part of gross domestic production (GDP) in Europe, and it is considered that the overall vulnerability of the European economy to changes that affect agriculture is low (2). However, agriculture is much more important in terms of area occupied (farmland and forest land cover approximately 90 % of the EU's land surface), and rural population and income (3).

Vulnerabilities Belarus

Yield variability

By now there are only a few works on the socio-economic consequences for Belarus of the predicted climate change. Suggested conclusions are therefore largely based on expert estimates that require further refining (1).

The potential damage of adverse weather and climate conditions in the moderate zone countries is the greatest in agriculture. Reduction of the yield capacity of major agricultural crops due to adverse weather conditions, especially droughts, may reach 50-60%, and in some years even more than that (11). If protective measures are taken, it can be lowered by 35 – 40% (1). A share of likely damage for aviation, construction, power production, heating, manufacturing, transport and other sectors varies between 0.1 and 2% of gross national income, while avoidable losses range from 20 to 40% of total losses (1).

Both positive and negative consequences of climate change are expected for agriculture in Belarus. Poor harvests may become more likely as a result of more frequent and recurring droughts and increased dryness in the territories of several regions (1). In Belarus rainless periods from April to October occur annually. They are particularly dangerous for light-textured mineral-enriched lands in spring and summer. The total amount of rainless days during the vegetative period constitutes 58 days. 83% of rainless days are characterized by a rise in air temperature which may lead to atmospheric and soil drought (11).

Temperature rise and precipitation reduction contribute to certain improvement of agroclimatic conditions for the growing of cereal crops and potato causing productivity to increase by 5-10% and 9-22%, respectively. However a small reduction in precipitation is able to bring about a more frequent occurrence of drought-related phenomena that would lead to poorer yields (1).

With a high level of intensive farming, i.e. massive application of fertilizers and ameliorants, the productivity of arable land will increase in the context of global warming. The productivity of land containing a low level of fertilizers and ameliorants will conversely deteriorate under the warm climate (1).

The reason for yield decline is a shorter vegetation period (acceleration of ripening) because of a higher thermal background. To a certain degree declining yield of spring cereals may be precluded by choosing earlier planting and/or switching to late varieties capable of taking better advantage of increasing heat resources (1).

Major losses in agriculture are associated with adverse effects of harmful meteorological events, such as droughts, frosts, heavy rains, hail, etc. There is reason to believe that rising mean annual air temperatures will result in a higher recurrence of extreme heat and moisture levels producing a negative effect on crop growth. Declining yields (especially of spring cereals) are predominantly attributable to dry conditions (1). Due to more frequent warm winters, the likelihood of winter crops being damaged by getting soaked, rotted, and vulnerable to snow mould will increase (11).

A considerable restructuring of the country’s agricultural areas and arable lands will urgently be required. It is quite possible that the arable areas in southern Belarus will diminish in their size (11).

Pests and diseases

Warmer winters will result in creating more favourable conditions for pests and agents of plant diseases to survive through them; warmer winters will also increase the growth of weed. All this will require the development of new measures of protection against weeds, agents of diseases, and pests (11).

Opportunities for Belarus

Increasing duration and heat supply of the vegetative period will open up new perspectives for Belarus which are as follows (11):

  • Cultivation of more high-yield late-ripening grain and vegetable crops;
  • Shift in the sowing-time of spring crops to earlier periods which will make it possible to more effectively use moisture stocks getting accumulated in soil after snow-melting, will allow for these crops earlier ripening, and will provide broader opportunities for stubble-field agriculture (however, it will be necessary to take into account the risk of May frosts; the said crops, therefore, are to be frost-resistant);
  • Extension to the North of the zone of cultivating heat loving vegetable crops such as onions and tomatoes;
  • Extension of areas under spring rape.

There will be significant opportunities to take advantage of warmer temperatures and a longer growing season to expand northwards crops currently only viable in the south of the country. The major threat to agricultural production will be the increase in frequency of drought and heat-waves, however improved soil conservation measures, water management and more drought-resistant cultivars should allow agricultural production to benefit on the whole from changed conditions. Additionally, there is at present a gap between the potential yield of many crops in Belarus and their actual production, and measures to reduce this gap could more than counter-act any negative effects on yield due to climate change (12).

Vulnerabilities Europe - Climate change not main driver

Socio-economic factors and technological developments

Climate change is only one driver among many that will shape agriculture and rural areas in future decades. Socio-economic factors and technological developments will need to be considered alongside agro-climatic changes to determine future trends in the sector (3).

From research it was concluded that socio-economic assumptions have a much greater effect on the scenario results of future changes in agricultural production and land use then the climate scenarios (4).

The European population is expected to decline by about 8% over the period from 2000 to 2030 (5).

Scenarios on future changes in agriculture largely depend on assumptions about technological development for future agricultural land use in Europe (4). It has been estimated that changes in the productivity of food crops in Europe over the period 1961–1990 were strongest related to technology development and that effects of climate change were relatively small. For the period till 2080 an increase in crop productivity for Europe has been estimated between 25% and 163%, of which between 20% and 143% is due to technological development and 5-20% is due to climate change and CO2 fertilisation. The contribution of climate change just by itself is approximately a minor 1% (6).

Care should be taken, however, in drawing firm conclusions from the apparent lack of sensitivity of agricultural land use to climate change. At the regional scale there are winners and losers (in terms of yield changes), but these tend to cancel each other out when aggregated to the whole of Europe (4).

Future changes in land use

If technology continues to progress at current rates then the area of agricultural land would need to decline substantially. Such declines will not occur if there is a correspondingly large increase in the demand for agricultural goods, or if political decisions are taken either to reduce crop productivity through policies that encourage extensification or to accept widespread overproduction (4).

Cropland and grassland areas (for the production of food and fibre) may decline by as much as 50% of current areas for some scenarios. Such declines in production areas would result in large parts of Europe becoming surplus to the requirement of food and fibre production (4). Over the shorter term (up to 2030) changes in agricultural land area may be small (7).

Although it is difficult to anticipate how this land would be used in the future, it seems that continued urban expansion, recreational areas (such as for horse riding) and forest land use would all be likely to take up at least some of the surplus. Furthermore, whilst the substitution of food production by energy production was considered in these scenarios, surplus land would provide further opportunities for the cultivation of bioenergy crops (4).

Europe is a major producer of biodiesel, accounting for 90% of the total production worldwide (8). In the Biofuels Progress Report (9), it is estimated that in 2020, the total area of arable land required for biofuel production will be between 7.6 million and 18.3 million hectares, equivalent to approximately 8% and 19% respectively of total arable land in 2005.

The agricultural area of Europe has already diminished by about 13% in the 40 years since 1960 (4).

Adaptation strategies Belarus

Irrigated cropping technology is of very limited distribution in the country. The predominance of light (sandy and sandy-loam) soils in the south of the country in the context of warm and dry climate may require the use of extremely expensive adaptation measures and raise the question of profitability in certain districts and regions (1).

In order to enhance adaptation capacity of agriculture to climate change and deliver sustainability to the farming sector, it is expedient to implement a set of activities comprising, among others, the following (1):

  • Combating soil erosion;
  • Soil-protective technologies, minimization of human-induced impact on soils;
  • Moisture-saving technologies;
  • Clean fallow;
  • Agro-forestry;
  • Wide use of organic fertilizers;
  • Conservation of the most degraded agricultural lands;
  • selection of new varieties and hybrids of agricultural crops;
  • biotechnology development;
  • Use of alternative energy sources including biomass;
  • development of infrastructure (roads, storage facilities, etc.) and agricultural processing companies in areas where natural conditions for farming practices may improve;
  • Further farming intensification – use of greater doses of fertilizers and other chemical agents in parallel with deeper soil amelioration bearing in mind that climate warming enhances efficacy of measures designed to improve soil fertility;
  • Introduction of slower-maturing varieties (hybrids), that will make better use of growing thermal resources of the territory;
  • Expansion of catch crops with a view to exploiting additional heat resources;
  • Expansion of planting areas of new (or cultivated currently on limited territories) highly effective crops corresponding to agro-meteorological conditions developed over the last decade (i.e. maize, sugar beet, etc.);
  • Selection of species and varieties for newly-laid garden plantations considering climate change tendencies (lower probability of tree frost damage, longer vegetative period, etc.);
  • Special training and educational programmes geared for rural workers.

and in addition (11):

  • Extend areas of irrigative and watering agriculture. Watering equipment needs improving; the useful life period of the majority of irrigation-watering systems in the country has already been over and calls for reconstruction;
  • Develop the system of insurance against drought and its consequences;
  • Extend sowing areas under maize.

In a scenario study of experts of Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine the following recommendations were made (10):

  • Detailed national adaptation plans including agriculture need to be developed and necessary financial resources identified for their implementation. Furthermore, legal frameworks need to be adapted in the region to promote innovation in agriculture.
  • Research, development, and deployment of new technologies for improving efficiency and agriculture despite climate change needs to be accelerated. Furthermore, new plant varieties more resistant to climate change need to be investigated.
  • Underdeveloped agricultural niches need to be explored further, such as organic farming or focusing on certain agricultural areas to increase productivity.

According to the Work Bank, the following adaptation measures hold the greatest promise for Eastern European countries, independent of climate change scenarios (13):

  • Technology and management: Conservation tillage for maintaining moisture levels; reducing fossil fuel use from field operations, and reducing CO2 emissions from the soil; use of organic matter to protect field surfaces and help preserve moisture; diversification of crops to reduce vulnerability; adoption of drought‐, flood‐, heat‐, and pest resistant cultivars; modern planting and crop‐rotation practices; use of physical barriers to protect plants and soils from erosion and storm damage; integrated pest management (IPM), in conjunction with similarly knowledge‐based weed control strategies; capacity for knowledge based farming; improved grass and legume varieties for livestock; modern fire management techniques for forests.
  • Institutional change: Support for institutions offers countries win‐win opportunities for reducing vulnerability to climate risk and promoting development. Key institutions include: hydromet centers, advisory services, irrigation directorates, agricultural research services, veterinary institutions, producer associations, water‐user associations, agro processing facilities, and financial institutions.
  • Policy: Non‐distorting pricing for water and commodities; financial incentives to adopt technological innovations; access to modern inputs; reformed farm subsidies; risk insurance; tax incentives for private investments; modern land markets; and social safety nets.


The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for Belarus.

  1. Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Belarus (2006)
  2. EEA (2006), in: EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  3. EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  4. Rounsevell et al. (2005)
  5. UN (2004), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  6. Ewert et al. (2005), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  7. Van Meijl et al. (2006), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  8. JNCC (2007), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  9. European Commission (2006), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  10. Maas (2011)
  11. Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Belarus (2009)
  12. Drakenberg (2010)
  13. World Bank Group (2009)

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