Agriculture and Horticulture Moldova
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).
The agricultural sector plays a central role in the country’s economy. Lately the contribution of the agricultural sector in the GDP ranged between 14.5 – 22.4% (2001-2006). About 40.7% of the total employed population are employed in agriculture (1). Other sources report different numbers ( 11): in 1998, the agricultural sector contributed 26% of the GDP and used 46% of the country’s labour force; in 2008 these shares were 11% and 31% respectively.
The Republic of Moldova has unique land resources characterized by predominant black earth soils with high productivity potential and very high utilization rate (>75%), and a rugged topography (above 80% of the total arable land is located on hill slopes). The agricultural land area is 74.0% of the Republic of Moldova’s total available land. The arable land area is 53.8% of the total available land (1). Only 13% of the arable land in Moldova is irrigated. Irrigation is difficult because of inappropriate water quality and the need for pumping, making irrigation too expensive. As a consequence, the costs of irrigation often exceed its potential benefits. This makes the agriculture sector highly dependent on natural precipitation. Moldova could serve as a model example of a non-irrigated crop response to the increasing drought tendency in southeastern Europe (15).
Time series of averaged crop yields in Moldova emphasize an increasing trend from 1962 to 1981 due to intensive agriculture, and a decreasing trend from 1985 to 2012 due to drought, heat stress, evapotranspiration intensification, reduced soil fertility, and sharp economic changes. Stagnating cereal yields in eastern European countries have been attributed to lower yields under higher frequency of droughts, heat stress, and the short duration of the grain-filling period, but changes in management may also have played a role. In almost all eastern European countries, crop yields also dropped as a result of sudden decrease of nitrogenous fertilization after 1990 due to short-term economic impact (15).
The agricultural production over 1991-2008 was characterized by fluctuations, with the best performance reported in 1993, 1997, 2004 and 2008, and with poor results – respectively in 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2003 and 2007, in most cases being caused by unfavourable climate conditions (severe droughts in 2003 and 2007). In 2007 irrigation was available on 32,400 ha of the agricultural plantations, or 88.9% less than in 1990 (291,600 ha) (1).
As of 2008, 156 plant species represented by 1,263 varieties, hybrids and clones were registered and approved for cultivation in the agriculture sector of the Republic of Moldova. As few as six species currently account for above 50% of total agricultural land area (2,506,200 hectares) of the Republic of Moldova. These species are: corn (18.6%), wheat (12.3%), sunflower (6.3%), barley (5.1%) and soy (2.0%). The trend to increase the number of such species and in particular the number of their varieties, hybrids and clones is a positive pattern; but the relatively low number of the actually cultivated species is just another potential risk for Moldova’s agriculture sector (1).
Orchards and vineyards
Between 1995 and 2007, the total area of orchards decreased by 30% and that of vineyards by 20%, while the area of lands sewn with grains increased from 50% of the total area of crops in 1994 to 65% in 2004. These developments are a consequence of farmers’ diminishing incomes, since they cannot finance needed investments in higher value-added crops (11).
Between 1995 and 2006, cattle livestock decreased by 56%, pigs by 41%, and sheep and goats by 32%. The fall
in livestock numbers was the consequence of inefficient restructuring of large animal and bird farms as well as natural disasters which required mass slaughtering of animals, and also the consequence of a lack of investment funds (11).
Agriculture: most vulnerable sector
Due to its overwhelming dependence on climate conditions, agriculture is the most vulnerable sector of the Moldovan economy to climate change. Climate volatility is one of the main causes of unstable harvests and is an inherent risk of Moldovan agriculture. However, a number of macroeconomic and structural evolutions have also determined the current depressed state of agriculture. Among these factors the most important are: the growing share of subsistence farming at the expense of commercial farming; an inefficient system of agricultural subsidies; lack of investment funds; excessive division of farming land; and a destroyed irrigation system (11).
The risk of overwintering and summer crops in Moldova being exposed to severe drought during their growing cycle is increasing. This is an immediate and fundamental problem, because the majority of the rural population depends either directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihoods (15).
Generally, Moldova has favourable climate conditions and relief. The country’s soils have a high level of fertility in the northern region and a medium level of fertility in the central and southern regions. However, natural calamities such as droughts, late spring frosts, hail, and floods frequently have a destructive impact on harvests. Furthermore, many land parcels are losing their natural fertility and require rehabilitation. If the soil protection issue is ignored and soil deterioration proceeds due to continued use of outdated farming techniques and a failure to adopt practices that protect against destructive effects of changing climate, agricultural productivity can be expected to face further serious declines (11).
Additional costs are required to eliminate the consequences of soil degradation and to restore the initial productivity levels of the affected soils. The principal factors that affect soil quality in the Republic of Moldova and that present the potential risks in view of climate change include (1):
- erosion (caused by the surface water as well as underground water);
- drift soil silting;
- primary and secondary soil compaction;
- deep tillage of soil;
- loss of the humus layer on un-eroded arable soils;
- degradation due to non-compliance with the irrigation techniques;
- biological degradation;
- degradation caused by certain social-economical aspects of the economy in transit.
Over 65 per cent of fertile soils are affected by erosion, landslide and other processes. These destructive factors diminish the land areas that can be irrigated (11).
Due to climate change the productivity of the winter wheat by the year 2039 may decrease from 14.28% to 17.79% (depending on climate model used) with respect to 1961-1990. In comparison with 1961-1990, by 2069 year the crop productivity may decrease, in dependence of the assessed model, from 23.35% to 33.99 %. By 2099, the productivity of winter wheat may decrease from 38.13% to 53.59% (depending on climate model used) (1). Other studies confirm these results. For instance, wheat yield reductions have been projected of 25% in 2010-2039, 45% in 2040-2069 and 75% in 2070-2099 compared with 1960-1990 (12).
The sharp decline in the productivity of winter wheat can be explained by a shift of vegetation phases in a more unfavorable period due to temperature increase. … the critical period for jointing at winter wheat will take place in dry conditions, which will impact a sharp decrease in the productivity (1).
For technical crops such as sunflower, which is relatively drought-resistant, more favorable climate conditions are projected during the growing season than for winter wheat (1).
For sugar beet by 2039, when assessing the combined effect of temperature and humidity during the growing season, a decrease in productivity is expected by 6.12% - 6.58% under the all climatic models assessed. In 2099, productivity for sugar beet is expected to decrease by 19.40 - 39.04% (depending on climate model used) (1).
Without adaptation measures, by 2099 a significant drop in the productivity for winter wheat (38.13 - 53.59%) and sugar beet (19.40 - 39.04%), a medium drop in the productivity for grain maize (20.07 - 29.77%), and a slight reduction in the productivity at sunflower (by 1.41%) is projected (1).
If no alternative economic occupations are provided, these trends will drive more rural families into poverty and further encourage the depopulation of rural areas (11).
Some future trends associated with climate change could be positive for agriculture, such as a higher concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, an increase in the duration of warm temperatures, an increase in solar radiation and an increase in the sum of active temperatures. These trends may accelerate plants’ growth, lengthen the periods of vegetation, and increase the yields of the plants. For instance, it has been shown that doubling the concentration of CO2 can increase the yields of wheat by about 28 (a phenomenon known as the so-called CO2 fertilization) (11).
However, the leading experts in Moldova believe that overall balance of the climate change effects projected for the next 100 years is not favourable for Moldovan agriculture (12). CO2 fertilization will not compensate completely for the losses in wheat production due to the projected increase in temperatures and reduction in amount of precipitations, but it is likely to offset the losses in corn production (11).
Livestock production in Moldova is very sensitive to climate changes, mainly through a lack or shortage of fodder. In 2008, meat production across all farms fell by 23.1% compared to the previous year, milk production by 10.3%, egg production by 23.2%. The steep 2008 decrease in animal products is the consequence of a decreased livestock population due to the severe drought in 2007 (11).
The changing climate conditions will affect the animals subsector in a direct, but more in an indirect way. In a direct way, high temperatures and lower humidity will increase the physiological stress and probably affect animal growth. The indirect impact will come via weather impact on grazing lands and forage plants. It is likely that the number of cattle will decrease while that of goats and donkeys in the southern part of the country will increase due to their greater tolerance for heat and their ability to subsist on more drought-tolerant forage. On the other hand, there may be more favourable development conditions for the animals subsector in the northern region of the country (11).
The droughts of 2007 and 2012
Droughts are a major problem for the Republic of Moldova: since the 1980s, droughts increased in intensity and persistence compared to the past, mostly due to increased temperatures and decreased precipitation in the region. Especially the south of Moldova is vulnerable to droughts. The extreme droughts in 2007 and 2012 sharply reduced agricultural production: in 2007 and 2012, the production of winter wheat dropped by 50 and 38%, of maize by 67 and 46%, of sunflower by 54 and 27%, and of sugar beet by 23 and 23%, respectively (15).
In the catastrophic drought in 2007, 90% of the country’s territory and 80% of the rural population depending on agriculture was aff ected by the diminished harvest. The savings and income of the rural population were lost, with total losses amounting to USD 1 billion, according to official estimates. Output of cereal crops diminished by 70% compared to 2006, and the wheat harvest fell by a factor of 10. Many households were not able to maintain their livestock because of the lack of fodder. Bovine livestock diminished by one quarter, pigs by almost 50%, and sheep and goats by 10%, and the number of poultry by 25% (11).
The drought showed that Moldova has a shortage of human resources and equipment necessary to deal with such major events. The government’s capacity to coordinate large-scale relief operations and to channel and distribute humanitarian aid to people most in need is also rather weak (11).
The year 2007 could be considered as a glimpse at some of the negative consequences of climate change that are likely in the not-so-distant future (11).
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 Moldova
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.
In addition, UNDP discriminates between no regret measures and policy recommendations (11,):
No regret measures:
- Drought. Risks resulting from drought can be diminished by using modern farming methods, by adapting plants to climate conditions, by achieving optimal soil irrigation, and improving weather forecasting. It is crucial to improve the drought forecasting capacity of the National Weather Forecast Service in Moldova, by providing access to European forecasts and EUMetsat satellite data. Rehabilitation of irrigation systems in the southern and eastern parts along with the introduction of drought resistant crops could increase the resilience of the agricultural ecosystems to help them maintain their services.
- Soil erosion. Soil erosion may be prevented by specific agricultural measures, better selection of crops and better use of efficient irrigation, by using proper growing and harvesting techniques, slope forestation, and slope water collection. A key precondition for this is better education of individual farmers and managers of the big agricultural entities. Soil erosion may be controlled by the use of engineering interventions. However, the most cost-effective method for preventing soil erosion is planting trees on affected land. Moreover, it is necessary to improve the soil erosion monitoring system and draw up maps that indicate levels of soil risk.
- Convection factors. Large harvest losses are also caused by convection factors in the May-August period and by late spring frosts in May. Weather storms are frequent from May to August. Hail, heavy rainfall and storms contribute to small rivers overflowing. Weather forecast bureaus also need special micro-climatic maps in order to make timely warnings against spring frosts.
- It is particularly important for Moldova to have scenarios for agro-climate development. These projections, along with a suitable information system, would enable the community to respond and/or adapt in time to possible threats to climate.
- The existing consulting service on agricultural matters should be improved, to ensure a correct use of available information and monitor the evolution of applied methods.
- Connecting agriculture to regional development, which in Moldova are separate, would positively influence further development.
- Development of an agricultural market system in rural areas would have a beneficial impact on the national economy and on rural human development.
Additional recommendations are (13):
- Pests and diseases. Invest in the monitoring and detection of new pests and diseases for the crop, livestock and forestry sectors through improvements in the sanitary and photosanitary regime.
- Irrigation. Rehabilitation of economically viable irrigation and delivery schemes to improve access and system water-use efficiency; Developing water recycling schemes that use treated waters from communal waste water treatment plants; Modernization of on-farm distribution systems; Introduction of new irrigation techniques and improvement of existing techniques to enhance field level water use efficiency; Small scale irrigation development and creation and rehabilitation of local water storage and associated infrastructure.
- Livestock. The adoption of better adapted animal breeds and grass/legume seed stock that are better adapted for projected hotter and drier conditions; Improved farmhouse micro-climate management through the use of thermal insulating construction materials and modern ventilation systems to protect livestock from extreme conditions and increase productivity; Improved pasture management by matching stocking rates to pasture production and integrating pasture improvement to increase feed value.
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 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 (14).
The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for Moldova.
- Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (2009)
- EEA (2006), in: EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
- EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
- 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)
- Maas (2011)
- UNDP (2009)
- Corobov et al. (2004), in: UNDP (2009)
- Worldbank (2010)
- World Bank Group (2009)
- Potopová et al. (2016)