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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 (5). 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 (6).


62% of the land area is used for agriculture, followed by forests and other land with forest vegetation (27%). Other types of land occupy 11% of the total area of the country (waters, ponds, lakes, yards and buildings, means of communication, etc). Arable land surface is about 63% of the total agricultural area, while the rest is represented by pastures (about 23%), hay fields (about 10%), vineyards (1.95%) and orchards (1.83%) (1). In 2000 agriculture contributed about 11% to GDP (14).

The climate and relief of the extensive Romanian plains are most favourable to the development of cereal crops, although these also are found in the Subcarpathians and in the Transylvanian Basin, where they occupy a high share of the total arable land. Wheat and corn (maize) are most important, followed by barley, rye, and oats (1).

About half of the cattle stock is raised for beef, which is an important export. Compared to 1989, a considerable reduction of animal livestock has been registered: by 48% for bovine, 44% for poultry, 36% for pigs and by 27% for sheep. Only the number of horses recorded an increase by 23% (1).

Vulnerabilities Romania

Drier summers

During the emergence vegetation phase, barley and winter wheat are particularly vulnerable to air and soil humidity deficit, but also to precipitation excess. The highest vulnerability is displayed by crops in the Vallachian Plain and Dobrudja. The lowest vulnerability is associated with the northern and central parts of the country, where the covering degree of precipitation necessary in autumn is optimum (1).

During the maximum sensitivity period (heading-flowering-grain filling) of winter cereals (wheat, barley) and of the weeding crops (maize, sun flower) which take place in Romania in May-July interval, crop vulnerability increase in the south and east of the Vallachian Plain. This is due to the fact that the negative impact of drought is enhanced by the simultaneous effects of other risk factors like: bright sunshine, excessive maximum temperature, and severe air humidity deficit (1).

The strongest droughts affecting the crops in Romania are those occurring in the autumn and summer. In the years with severe droughts, very small yields (below 1000kg/ha) were obtained, with a reduction of 60-70% of the productive potential of the areas, and sometimes the yields were totally damaged (1).

Climate change will modify rainfall, evaporation, runoff, and soil moisture storage. Changes in total seasonal precipitation or in its pattern of variability are both important. The occurrence of moisture stress during flowering, pollination, and grain-filling is harmful to most crops and particularly so to maize, soybeans, and wheat. Increased evaporation from the soil and accelerated transpiration in the plants themselves will cause moisture stress; as a result there will be a need to develop crop varieties with greater drought tolerance. Besides, the demand for water for irrigation is projected to rise. Based on observations performed during the period 1961-2000, it was noticed that agricultural areas in the south and south-east of the country are the most vulnerable to rainfall deficit (14).

Higher CO2 concentrations

The results of crop simulations under 2xCO2 equilibrium GCM scenarios have revealed the fact that climate change effects on development, grain yield and water balance for winter wheat and maize depend on local conditions of each site, the severity of changes in climate and the direct physiological effects of double CO2 concentration. Wheat and maize crops have different photosynthetic pathways, so their response to increased CO2 is different (1).

Winter wheat and maize are strategic crops in the cultivated areas in southern Romania and represent different agronomic systems: winter wheat is mainly rain fed, and maize is both a rain fed (in few areas) and an irrigated crop (especially in the regions with a warmer and dry climate). The maize crop is sensitive to water availability, especially in the flower initiation/tasseling and silking/ grain-filling phases. Winter wheat is a less waterconsumptive crop. In addition, winter wheat and maize are different plants from the genetic point of view, so their response to doubled atmospheric CO2 is different (2).

Winter wheat could benefit from higher CO2 concentration with higher temperatures, while maize appears to be a vulnerable crop to climate change, especially in the case of a warm and dry scenario. According to yield simulations, the negative effect of temperature increase for wheat, that causes a shorter growth period, would be counterbalanced by the positive effect of the doubling CO2 concentration (1,14).

The assessment of the direct effects of CO2 on crop production remains an important research question. Although many studies have confirmed the beneficial effect of CO2 on the mean responses of crops (especially for C3 plants, including winter wheat), variation in responsiveness between plant species persists (1).

Projections for 2020-2050 indicate maize yields to decrease up to 33% (compared with 1961-1990) due to a shortening of the vegetation season by 20-29 days, following an increase in temperature, as well as due to water stress during grain filling, caused by diminished precipitation amounts. Being a C4 plant, maize benefits less from the effect of increased CO2 concentrations upon photosynthesis (14).


Initially, owing to warmer temperatures, the decrease in precipitation and the longer growing seasons, there may be an improvement in crop productivity (cereals, oilseeds and sugar beet) in countries such as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania (13).

In Romania, there is potential for significant expansion of irrigated agriculture. Revitalizing agriculture appears to be a particularly viable economic development strategy in Romania (16).

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 (6).

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 (7).

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

Scenarios on future changes in agriculture largely depend on assumptions about technological development for future agricultural land use in Europe (7). 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% (9).

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 (7).

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 (7).

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 (7). Over the shorter term (up to 2030) changes in agricultural land area may be small (10).

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 (7).

Europe is a major producer of biodiesel, accounting for 90% of the total production worldwide (11). In the Biofuels Progress Report (12), 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 (7).

Adaptation strategies in Romania

Specific measures for adaptation to climate change in agriculture could include (14):

  • Improvement of the effective use of water by crops: use of cultivars resistant to abiotic stresses (i.e. drought, high temperature) and resistance to specific diseases; using different soil classes; changing the seeding date and selection of cultivars with shorter germination and shorter growing season; application of irrigation and choose the most suitable irrigation method considering type of crop, soil type, technology, costs and benefits; changing the agricultural practices and crop rotation systems; perform periodical soil analysis and tests, in order to assess and correct the limiting factors which hinder the normal growth and development of plants (acidity, nutrient excess or deficit, etc.); use of natural organic fertilizers, adapted to needs/demands;
  • Improvement of the genotype varieties, and cultivation of a greater number of species/genotypes, respectively varieties/hybrids, with the different vegetation period, for a better exploitation of the climate conditions, especially the humidity conditions and the agricultural works lagging;
  • Crop rotation and the determination of a crop structure that should include at least three groups of plants, respectively straw cereals 33%, hoe - technical plants 33% and legumes 33%. Crop rotation should be organized with green fertilizers in order to improve the physical, chemical and biologic properties of the degraded soils. Using mixed crops, catch crops, permanent crops, double crops on the same fields or within the farm also increases biodiversity;
  • An irrigation system that fits the necessities and the local conditions concerning the surface, the type of the crop and the soil features. Since 1990 water use in agriculture in eastern Europe has declined, triggered by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the associated loss of trade (3). This decline suggests the potential for a future increase in irrigated agriculture in this region. In Romania, for example, rehabilitation and modernisation of the irrigation system has been initiated (4).
  • Manage renewable energy sources efficiently by introducing new crops, by cultivating annual or perennial herbaceous with a high energetic value (cane, couch grass, sorghum, etc.), by collecting, storing and using the organic residual materials resulted from agriculture, food industry and farms with a high protein content (liquid manure, sewage and waste water, scrap fodder, crop residue, slaughterhouses waste), and by increasing the share of crops intended for the biogas production (maize, sugar beet, rape, etc.), which can be cultivated as raw material for the biogas factories.

According to the Work Bank, the following adaptation measures hold the greatest promise for Eastern European countries, independent of climate change scenarios (15):

  • 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.


Maize being a crop with high water requirements, by the application of irrigation the yield losses due to the crop stress can be significantly reduced, especially in extremely dry years. The simulation results showed that, in the dry year, irrigation decreased the percentage of the estimated total yield reduction in rain fed conditions from 90% up to 26% (by applying 5 irrigations of 70 mm), from 52% up to 20% in case of a normal year (by applying 3 irrigations of 70 mm) and in wet year from 25% up to 10% (by applying 1 irrigation of 70 mm) (1).

In the extremely dry year of 2000, maize was the seriously damaged by soil drought, which occurred as a result of low precipitation (125 mm) relative to crop water requirements (638 mm). In this case, the estimated total yield reduction due to crop stress was considerable (up to 90%) and the maize yield was practically compromised (1).

For maize, the economic risk analysis suggests that the dominant strategy use the following adaptation options (2): the application of irrigation, use of longer maturing hybrids, sowing in the last 10 days of April, use of a plant density of 5 plants m2, and the increase of nitrogen levels up to 120–160 kg/ha.


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

  1. Ministry of Environment and Water management (2005)
  2. Cuculeanu et al. (1999)
  3. European Environment Agency(2004), in: European Environment Agency (2009)
  4. World Bank (2007), in: European Environment Agency (2009)
  5. EEA (2006), in: EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  6. EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  7. Rounsevell et al. (2005)
  8. UN (2004), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  9. Ewert et al. (2005), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  10. Van Meijl et al. (2006), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  11. JNCC (2007), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  12. European Commission (2006), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  13. Behrens et al. (2010)
  14. Ministry of Environment and Forests (2010)
  15. World Bank Group (2009)
  16. Rosenzweig et al. (2004)

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