Croatia Croatia Croatia Croatia


Agriculture and Horticulture Croatia

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 (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).


In 2003 the total agricultural land in Croatia was 55.6% of the total mainland area. It includes arable land and gardens, orchards, olive-groves, vineyards, meadows and pastures. A large part of this agricultural land is not used due to the landmines: in 2005, 26.39% of agricultural land was suspected to be contaminated by explosives (1). In 2007, utilized agricultural land in Croatia was about 21% of the total mainland area (11).

According to data of 2010, agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishing contribute around 7% to GDP, 10% to employment and 13% to merchandise exports in Croatia (12). The share of agricultural in the total population of Croatia dropped from 8.56% in 1991 to 5.54% in 2001 (1).

Only 0.86% of arable land was irrigated in Croatia in 2003. The national irrigation project foresees the construction of irrigation systems on an area totalling 35,000 ha in the period between 2006 and 2010 (1).

Maize and wheat production dominates on approximately 50% of total arable land. Livestock breeding has a share of approximately 44% in the value of agricultural production (11). Industrial crops such as sugar beet, oilseed rape and sunflowers are also important (12).

Vulnerabilities Croatia

Lowland Croatia

In lowland Croatia, the annual number of days with a temperature above 5°C will be higher in 2100 than in 2011 by between 35 and 84 days. ... It can be assumed that the sowing of spring crops will commence at an earlier date and, depending on the possibility of providing sufficient irrigation water, the growing period will last longer. Yields will be constrained by the length of the growing period, the provision of sufficient water for intensified evapotranspiration, and possible crop damage due to early spring frosts and excessively high temperatures in summer. Winter crops will have more favourable conditions for growth and development, thus some increases in yield can be expected. In such conditions, however, considerable problems may occur in terms of weed, disease and pest control (1,12).

Spring crops will suffer from water deficiency in the summer months and, without the provision of sufficient water for irrigation, in some years yields might be substantially reduced due to droughts. Besides irrigation, the adverse effects of water deficiency can also be avoided by the application of adequate tillage systems for a given region, and by the choice of appropriate sowing dates and seed (12).

Winter wheat yield may be reduced due to water stress by 29, 37 and 46% for early-, mid- and late-maturing genotypes respectively (13). In Croatia, relatively often, lower yields are obtained when periods of drought are recorded in the various growing phases of winter wheat. The lower production of corn in Croatia is very often associated with dry periods during corn vegetation, especially in the most sensitive development stages (12).

Analyses of soil water balance for lowland Croatia indicate that the temperature increase foreseen by the models will cause higher evapotranspiration. Although increased precipitation is foreseen as well, it will not suffice to compensate for water evaporation by combined processes of evaporation and transpiration. For this reason, the probability of dry periods in summer months will be increased, which will have an essential influence on yield decrease unless enough water is provided for spring crops. … The example of water balance for lowland Croatia allows the assumption that the summer water deficiency will increase by 30 to 60% by the year 2100 (2).

Mountain regions

In mountain regions, where there is enough water according to the current average water balance values, an average water deficiency may be expected in August . Based on the duration of particular cardinal temperatures, the prolongation of the growing period by between 25 and 45 days can be assumed, which might have a positive impact on yields of field crops. Higher air temperatures result in earlier emergence and the more rapid achievement of particular growth phases. Compared to the current situation, the ripening and harvesting of most annual crops will be brought forward by at least 15 to 25 days. On the other hand, faster initial growth in spring increases the risk of crop damage by frost (2,12).

Coastal region

In the coastal region and on the islands substantial water deficiency is expected during the summer months. Water deficiency in the soil may increase by 25.5 - 56.5%. If sufficient water cannot be provided, some drought-associated problems may be solved by shifting sowing times to periods with sufficient precipitation (12).


If a doubled CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is assumed, a certain increase of the total plant mass of different agricultural crops, due to fertiliser effects, may be expected. Along with increased biomass production, a corresponding increase of root organic matter is expected as well. Because of slower decomposition of the root biomass, due to increased CO2 concentration, permanent enrichment of soil with organic matter might be assumed, whereby the humus content would increase as well. Still, effects of the increased CO2 concentration on plant production will largely depend on changes in the temperature and precipitation regime (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 (5).

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

Adaptation measures in Croatia include (12):

  • New practices and new soil tillage methods that are adapted to the changed climate conditions. These include conservation tillage, no tillage and so-called adaptable soil tillage;
  • The development of new varieties and hybrids suitable for intensive production under abiotic stress conditions;
  • Increased flexibility in crop rotation, with the introduction of new crops and different hybrids or varieties of the same crop in particular production areas;
  • Effective plant protection measures to combat weeds, pests and plant diseases;
  • Fertilisation and the application of soil improvers;
  • Improved drainage and irrigation;
  • Change of timing of sowing and harvesting in different parts of Croatia, based on cardinal temperatures;
  • New areas become favourable for specific types of agricultural production, and at the same time some existing agricultural regions in Croatia will be reduced or lost, primarily because of a shortage of water for irrigation.

The extension of the vegetation period requires gradual adaptation in terms of time frames and methods of soil cultivation, feeding and protecting crops, and development of new varieties better adapted to new climate conditions, primarily to a longer vegetation period and a pronounced shortage of water in soil in June and July (1).

From a long-term aspect, there is a need for experimental introduction of new crops currently not grown at all or grown on a limited scale in Croatia. The predicted climate scenario for southern Croatia will enable the extension of cultivation to new arable land and the increase in the production of Mediterranean species presently accounting for a considerable segment of fruit imports (1).

In future, damages caused by very cold winters or late spring frosts, which are nowadays a limited factor for fruit and vine growing in continental Croatia, will be minimised. Positive effects may be expected in the plantation production of grapes and apples, which will extend to areas presently unsuitable. It is also possible to introduce certain varieties in the fruit production which are not traditional, but may have positive market effects (1).

The predicted increase in daily mean air temperatures and the rainfall reduction during the vegetation season, accompanied by irrigation, will result in a considerably more cost-effective and, from the aspect of health, more acceptable production. The total amount, distribution, form and intensity of precipitation are highly important for the soil water balance. If the soil is not irrigated during a dry period, the yields of crops grown will drop. It is planned to construct irrigation systems such that the share of irrigated areas in the total area of arable land would rise from 0.86% to 6% by 2020 (1).

According to the Work Bank, the following adaptation measures hold the greatest promise for Eastern European countries, independent of climate change scenarios (14):

  • 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 Croatia.

  1. Republic of Croatia, Ministry of Environmental Protection, Physical Planning and Construction (2006)
  2. Republic of Croatia, Ministry of Environmental Protection and Physical Planning (2001)
  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. Republic of Croatia, Ministry of Environmental Protection, Physical Planning and Construction (2010)
  12. Mesic (2011)
  13. Baric et al. (2008), in: Mesic (2011)
  14. World Bank Group (2009)