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Agriculture and Horticulture

Agriculture and horticulture in numbers


Ukrainian agriculture has been evolving since the country became independent in 1991, with more than two thirds of the land now being used for farming. Winter wheat is the largest crop in terms of area, dominating 95% of the agricultural land, with central and southern Ukraine being the key production zones. Spring barley is grown in eastern Ukraine and winter barley in the south (11).


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 (3). 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 (4).

Vulnerabilities and opportunities Ukraine

Winter barley is not cold tolerant and as temperatures rise it is likely that its habitable zone will expand northwards, as long as soil conditions, light levels and water availability are adequate. Roughly 5% of grains and 10% of potatoes, vegetables and forage crops in Ukraine are irrigated (12). As summer temperatures rise and rainfall decreases, the need for irrigation may increase. Large increases in the yield of rain-fed winter wheat have been projected for northern Europe in the future, with smaller increases further south (13). With decreases in frost days predicted, winter wheat crops, which are particularly susceptible to frost damage, are more likely to survive in to spring (11). The zone of assured winter wheat cultivation will probably move in the direction of northern latitudes, on the territories of western Polyssia and right-bank Forest-steppe (1).

Conditions will become more favourable for crops such as barley, oat, corn, and legumes, as well as green fodder. This will stimulate the forming of intensive dairy cattle production and meat livestock production (1).

It is projected that climate change, coupled with the benefits from new crop varieties and better technology, could increase crop yields in Ukraine. Estimates show climate-related increases in wheat yield of up to 30% by 2080 (13). However, the potential for gain in Ukraine due to more favourable conditions for crops could be offset by increased variability and extreme events. Studies of food production on the Russian border with Ukraine suggest that if the projected change in the frequency of drought is taken into account, the number of years with food production shortfalls increases substantially (14).

The warmer climate and abundant precipitation in the northeastern part of Europe and Central Asia – Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine – may open up a new agricultural frontier. However, any local potential benefit pales in comparison to the costs of the region’s relative inefficiency and low productivity. While world grain yields have been growing on average by about 1.5% per year, they have been falling or stagnant in these three countries (2).

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 (4).

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 (5).

The European population is expected to decline by about 8% over the period from 2000 to 2030 (6).

Scenarios on future changes in agriculture largely depend on assumptions about technological development for future agricultural land use in Europe (5). 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% (7).

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 (5).

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 (2).

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 (5). Over the shorter term (up to 2030) changes in agricultural land area may be small (8).

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 (5).

Europe is a major producer of biodiesel, accounting for 90% of the total production worldwide (9). In the Biofuels Progress Report (10), 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 (5).

Adaptation strategies Ukraine

In a scenario study of experts of Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine the following recommendations were made (15):

  • 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 (16):

  • 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.

Weather forecasts

The status of most weather services among Eastern European countries has deteriorated considerably in the last two decades, mainly as a consequence of persistent under‐financing during the arduous transition that followed the end of central planning and the break‐up of the Soviet Union. … The perils of a weakening forecast capacity have become evident in Russia’s system, where the share of hazardous weather phenomena that were not picked up and forecast increased from 6% at the beginning of 1990s to 23% only ten years later. … Increased accuracy in forecasting would assist in the timing of fertilizer application and pest and disease control, avoiding over‐application that raises input costs and exacerbates environmental damage. There is abundant evidence that farmers in Tajikistan, Montenegro, Uzbekistan, and Albania would benefit significantly from improved monitoring and forecasting. Forecasts also would enable mitigation of frost damage, which is a serious problem for agriculture in Ukraine, Turkmenistan, Montenegro, Moldova, Armenia, Macedonia, Kazakhstan, and Bosnia, among others. Tools to mitigate the effects of sudden freezes are being developed globally, but cost‐effective application depends on accurate forecasting (16).


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

  1. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1998)
  3. EEA (2006), in: EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  4. EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  5. Rounsevell et al. (2005)
  6. UN (2004), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  7. Ewert et al. (2005), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  8. Van Meijl et al. (2006), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  9. JNCC (2007), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  10. European Commission (2006), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  11. Met Office Hadley Centre (2010)
  12. USDA (2004), in: Met Office Hadley Centre (2010)
  13. Olesen et al. (2007), in: Met Office Hadley Centre (2010)
  14. Alcamo et al. (2007b), in: Met Office Hadley Centre (2010)
  15. Maas (2011)
  16. World Bank Group (2009)

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