Agriculture and Horticulture Finland
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).
Much of the country is gently undulating plateau of old bedrock. Nearly all of Finland locates in the boreal coniferous forest zone, and 74% of the total land area is classified as forest land, while only some 9% is farmed. Finland has over 33,600 km2 of inland water systems, or about 10% of its total area. There are some 190,000 lakes and 180,000 islands, almost half of the latter along the Baltic Sea coast. Some land use changes have occurred in Finland since the year 1990. The areas of forest land and settlements have increased, while the areas of croplands and wetlands have decreased (1).
Finland is the world’s northernmost agricultural country. The growing season – which refers to the period during which the average daily temperature exceeds 5 degrees – varies from less than 100 days in the north to 180 days in the south. In Central Europe, the thermal growing season lasts for 280 days (2).
There are 2.2 million hectares of arable land in Finland, which is 6.5% of the country’s land area. In 2003 some 1,982,000 hectares were cultivated and more than 220,000 hectares were set aside. The total number of Finnish farms with more than one hectare of arable land was about 72,000 in 2003 (2).
The growing season in Finland is too short for the cultivars grown elsewhere and frost-resistant varieties have been developed. However, Finnish cultivars do not yield as much as those in central and southern Europe. The harsh Finnish winters also reduce productivity as they restrict the cultivation of winter cereals (1).
About half of the active farms practice crop production as their main line. Most of these produce cereals (72%), a little over a fifth (22%) cultivate other crops and the rest practice horticulture. Dairy production is the main production line on almost 30% of the farms. About 7% of the farms specialise in beef production and 6% in pig husbandry. The shares of poultry farms and organic farms are around 2% each. About 2% of the farms practice horse husbandry and the shares of sheep husbandry, forestry, and reindeer herding are about 1% each (1).
The structure of agricultural production in terms of the number of farms has changed considerably during the EU membership. The share of livestock farms decreased from 52% to 39% between 1995 and 2003, and the share of plant farms increased from 39% to 57%. However, the share of animal husbandry in agricultural production measured by market prices has remained almost unchanged, standing at 82% in 2003. Compared to other European Union countries, the average unit size of Finnish livestock farms is relatively small (2).
Climatic conditions influence the regional distribution of production and use of arable land. Plant farms are mainly located in Southern Finland, while cattle farms are found in central, eastern and northern parts of the country. The total return on agriculture and horticulture amounted to four billion euros in 2003 (2).
Agriculture employed 118,900 people in 1999. If the entire food industry is included, the number of people employed is approximately 163,000. The objective of Finnish agricultural policy is to maintain an inhabited countryside and self-sufficient agriculture. Even though its significance to the national economy has diminished, agriculture remains the most important source of livelihood in the countryside (2).
Gross value of domestic agricultural and horticultural production in 2003 was 1.3% of the total GDP. In 1990 that percentage was 3.7% (1).
Benefits from climate change
Global warming leads to a prolongation and intensification of the thermal growing season. Prolongation and warming of this season has already been noticed in many regions: in northern Europe thermal growing season has lengthened by about 1week between 1951 and 2000 (22) and 23 days between 1950 and 2019 (24). The increase of growing season length is largely due to the earlier beginning of the growing season, on average 15 days in the period 1950 - 2019 (24). The intensity of this season (expressed as growing degree day sum) has increased all over Europe after 2000 (23,24).
The growing season is estimated to become three to five weeks longer by 2050. With the exception of Northern Finland, the growing season will extend particularly in the autumn (2). Towards the end of the century the growing season may be extended by some 40 days, corresponding to approximately ten days per one degree of warming (3), depending on the emission scenario.
It is estimated that, in addition to the extended growing season, the increase of arable land areas in the north, due to warming, will increase the harvesting potential (2,16). This increased harvesting potential will vary by type of crop, with a 40% average. In addition to this, animal husbandry would benefit from warming as the grazing season will become longer (feed costs, animal health). Pest damage is estimated to double. However, the net benefit to Finnish agriculture would be in the order of FIM 1 to 3 billion per year at the level of 2050, based on the value of money in 1993 (2).
For Finland, the change of crop yield in 2080 referred to 1990 has been estimated based on several combinations of models and scenarios; the outcomes show an increase ranging from 21.4% - 37.8% (7).
The area suitable for the cultivation of cereals will move farther north. Thus Finnish agriculture would be practised in a climate that is currently prevailing south of Stockholm in Sweden or in the southern part of the Baltic States. Finnish agricultural production will probably not develop to resemble these regions, because it is influenced by domestic consumption needs, the economy of cultivation and the soil. Therefore, the focus will probably stay with cereal cultivation in Southern Finland and fodder grass production in the north (2).
The varieties of arable crops used in the future will not be the ones cultivated today. With current breeding methods, the time required for developing a new variety of arable crops varies from approximately seven years (self-pollinating grain, oil plants) to 12–15 years (fall grain, grass). This means that the improvement process for arable crop varieties will be able to react to relatively rapid changes in climatic conditions (2).
Even if the climate becomes warmer, it is not probable that varieties developed for more southern conditions would be usable in Finland. This is due to the quite extraordinary length of day in Finland during the growing season and the special rhythm of the growth required for the varieties used, as well as the types of soil in Finnish fields, which vary substantially within Finland and in comparison to those found in more southern growing conditions. In addition, the extraordinary nature of Finnish growing conditions is emphasised by multidimensional interaction between the factors mentioned above. Therefore, it is clear that arable crop production in Finland can only be based on the improvement of varieties intended particularly for local conditions. Climatic warming will probably result in the need to increase the use of pesticides and introduce more powerful pesticides (2).
The impact of climate change on two grass species (timothy and ryegrass) was assessed at several locations in Northern Europe (Iceland, Scandinavia, Baltic countries) in a near-future scenario (2040–2065) compared with the baseline period 1960–1990. This was done for simulations based on a large number of global climate models and the IPCC SRES A1B emission scenario. According to these results potential grass yield will increase throughout the study area, mainly as a result of increased growing temperatures: 14% for irrigated and 11% for non-irrigated conditions. Predicted yield response was largest at western locations. The growing period was predicted to start earlier in 2050 compared with the baseline period. The yield response showed a west-east geoclimatic gradient, with the largest yield responses at locations with a maritime climate in the west and the smallest at inland locations in the east. This gradient was especially evident under non-irrigated conditions due to the generally larger precipitation at the western locations (20).
Higher CO2 concentrations
In the short term, a rising concentration of CO2 can stimulate photosynthesis, leading to increases in biomass production in C3 crops such as wheat, barley, rye, potato and rice (15). The response is much smaller in C4 crops such as maize. These benefits will be particularly pronounced in northern Europe. As climate change advances, however, its negative impacts, such as more frequent winter floods, are likely to outweigh these benefits (14,15).
The world food system in 2080
The world food system in the twenty-first century has been assessed, under various future scenarios of population, economic growth and climate change, addressing the questions: what are the likely impacts of climate change on the world’s agricultural resources? How do climate impacts compare to socioeconomic pressures over this century? Where and how do significant interactions arise? According to the authors, a fully coherent, unified data and modelling system has been used for the first time (17).
For the developed nations under all climate projections an expansion of potential land suitable for crop cultivation in 2080 with respect to 1990 was predicted, mainly in North America (40% increase over the 360 million hectares under current baseline climate); northern Europe (16% increase over current 45 million hectares); Russian Federation (64% increase over 245 million hectares) and in East Asia (10% increase over 150 million hectares) (17).
Model results indicated that agriculture in developed countries as a group would benefit under climate change. Agricultural GDP mostly increases in the Former Soviet Union (up to 23% in scenario A2); while only Western Europe loses agricultural GDP, across all GCM scenarios. Model results indicated decreases in agricultural GDP in most developing regions, with the exception of Latin America (17).
According to these scenarios the developing countries will become more dependent on net cereal imports. Climate change will add to this dependence, increasing net cereal imports of developing regions by 10–40% across GCM climate projections (17).
Agriculture and forestry are likely to be the most affected sectors. There might be a need to change the crops and new species are likely to spread to the country. Infact, from 1996 to 2016, enabled by climate warming, some of the traditional major crops such as oats, barley and potatoes have paved the way for emergent crops like faba beans, peas, caraway and spring oilseed rape (21). New species also means new crop diseases and new pests. The risk of plant disease epidemics, particularly various types of fungi and moulds, as well as potato blight, may increase. They may also occur earlier (4).
The need for irrigation water will increase, and the availability of water may become more difficult. Climatic warming may increase stress arising from dryness and heat during the growing season (4).
The overwintering of plants may be hampered in southern Finland when the depth of snow decreases. The alternation between melting and freezing caused by mild winters is most harmful for the overwintering of plants; plants can suffocate beneath the ice cover. The risk of spring frost may also increase (4).
In the short term economic benefits of climate change may outweigh disadvantages due to longer growing seasons and increasing plant productivity. However, negative impacts could grow more serious in the longer term (1).
Farm animals will have a shorter indoor feeding and longer grazing season. Increased grazing may, however,
enhance the leaching of nutrients to water. The risk of animal diseases may increase, although the risk is expected to be very low. The possible spreading of the vector-borne disease bluetongue is being followed closely and a contingency plan has been made. Diseases associated with the quality of water and feed may become more common. If the temperatures in sheds housing cattle and poultry rise very high, this would lead to a reduction in the milk yield of dairy cattle and in the growth of beef cattle and poultry (18).
A number of cereals (barley, oats, rye, spring and winter wheat, and spring rape) has been monitored for 40 years, from 1965 to 2008 (spring rape from 1978 to 2008), throughout Finland (19). It was shown that the northernmost regions seem to have most potential for benefiting from an increasing temperature sum, but will also suffer most from increasing precipitation at current temperatures. However, to date, these regions have responded more to socioeconomic change than to climatic change, as regional polarization to low yields in the north has continued (19).
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 (8).
The European population is expected to decline by about 8% over the period from 2000 to 2030 (9).
Scenarios on future changes in agriculture largely depend on assumptions about technological development for future agricultural land use in Europe (8). 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% (10).
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 (8).
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 (8).
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 (8). Over the shorter term (up to 2030) changes in agricultural land area may be small (11).
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 (2).
Europe is a major producer of biodiesel, accounting for 90% of the total production worldwide (12). In the Biofuels Progress Report (13), 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 (8).
Adaptation strategies - Finland
Since 1965 the northernmost regions of Finland have responded more to socioeconomic change than to climatic change. This emphasizes the importance of planned adaptation by society, such as targeted breeding to support the autonomous adaptation taking place on farms, if benefits from favorable climatic change are to be realized in the north. Regionally planned adaptations, taking into account improving the rural livelihood of northern areas, resilience-enhancing aspects in land use, such as diversified cropping, and the economic feasibility of adaptation might play a key role for improving adaptive capacity of agriculture in the north (19).
Adaptation strategies - The world food system in 2080
The world food system in the twenty-first century has been assessed, under various future scenarios of population, economic growth and climate change. Results suggest that socioeconomic development over this century will greatly alter production, trade, distribution and consumption of food products worldwide, as a consequence of population growth, economic growth, and diet changes in developing countries. Climate change will additionally modify agricultural activities, probably increasing any gaps between developing and developed countries. Adaptation strategies, both on-farm and via market mechanisms, will be important contributors to limiting the severity of impacts (17).
At the global level simulation results indicate only small percentage changes from the baseline reference case with respect to cereal-production. It is suggested that two levels of adaptation considered in the simulations, i.e. autonomous adaptation at the field level, such as changing of crop calendars and cropping systems as a function of climate; and market adjustments at both regional (re-distribution of capital, labour and land) and global (trade) levels, can successfully combine to reduce otherwise larger negative impacts (17).
Additional climate change pressures may arise, however, by changes in the frequency of extreme precipitation events such as floods and droughts, which may diminish the capacity of countries to adapt, especially in poor tropical regions (17).
The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for Finland.
- Ministry of the Environment of Finland (2006)
- Marttila et al.(2005)
- Räisänen et al. (2004), in: Marttila et al.(2005)
- Kentala-Lehtonen (2008)
- EEA (2006), in: EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
- EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
- EEA (2003)
- Rounsevell et al. (2005)
- UN (2004), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
- Ewert et al. (2005), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
- Van Meijl et al. (2006), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
- JNCC (2007), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
- European Commission (2006), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
- EEA (2004), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
- IPCC (2007), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
- Iglesias et al. (2009)
- Fischer et al. (2005)
- Ministry of the Environment and Statistics Finland (2009)
- Himanen et al. (2012)
- Hoglind et al. (2013)
- Peltonen-Sainio and Jauhiainen (2020)
- Linderholm et al. (2008), in: Ruosteenoja et al. (2016)
- Spinoni et al. (2015), in: Ruosteenoja et al. (2016)
- Aalto et al. (2022)