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Agriculture and Horticulture Norway

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 (7). 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 (8).


Agricultural areas account for only 3% of the mainland, while about 37% is covered by forest. The remaining area consists of other cultivated land, scrub and heath along the coast, mountain forest and marginal forest, and sparsely vegetated mountains and mountain plateaus. Some 47% of the land is above the tree line (1).

Benefits from climate change Norway

Studies show that increased future warming may lead to a longer growing season and positive impacts on agricultural yields, with an increased effect progressing from the south to the north (2,18). For instance, a 25%–30% increase in potato yields is estimated, with the largest increase in northern Norway (2). In the most productive agricultural areas of southeastern Norway a 14% increase in wheat yields is estimated (3). A longer growing season may also enable growing more heat demanding species and varieties of crops. This could increase use of legumes and more productive perennial forage grasses and potentially increase the production of vegetables and grains (21).

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 (29) and 23 days between 1950 and 2019 (31). 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 (31). The intensity of this season (expressed as growing degree day sum) has increased all over Europe after 2000 (30,31).

In Northern Norway, the growing season is projected to increase by 1–4 weeks for the period 2021–2050, compared with 1961–1990 (21). For the period 1961–1990 the mean growing season in Northern Norway varied between 90 and 150 days, growing season being defined as the number of days per year with an average temperature above 5 °C. The short growing season is one of the limiting factors for agriculture in Northern Norway today. It limits the variety of possible crops and the yield potential. Consequently grassland occupies more than 90 % of the cultivated land in this area (22).

Productivity improvements in northern countries could reach 40-50% by the 2080s (17).

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).

Animal husbandry

Snow and precipitation are perhaps the most important climatic factors acting directly on livestock and indirectly primarily via changes in vegetation. The need for winter housing of livestock and feed concentrates may reduce (24). Introducing new species, like perennial ryegrass, may increase fodder quality, while animals simultaneously might enjoy prolonged grazing periods on fresh grassland (21).

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 (15,16).

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 (19).

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) (19).

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 (19).

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 (19).

Vulnerabilities Norway

The correlation between a longer growing season and opportunities for agriculture is not straightforward, however (21). In Northern Norway, an autumnal extension of the growing season is limited by the reduced photoperiod which will terminate growth even if the temperature is sufficiently high. Further potential gain of an increased growing season thus requires an earlier onset of spring. Utilizing earlier spring conditions depends on several factors, however, including the risk for frost in this period. Frequent “frost on snow-free soil” leads to thick layers of frozen soil, which will keep soil temperatures low throughout spring even if other conditions would favour an early start of the season. For Northern Norway a reduction in snow amount and length of the snow cover season (by 1–3 months) is projected (21). Besides, increased temperature during autumn can shorten the hardening period (23), resulting in less hardened plants which affects the ability of plants to survive winter. Precipitation is projected to increase especially in autumn when precipitation is already quite high. This is at present complicating harvesting and other farm operations and these problems are expected to increase in the future. Negative effects are “drowning” of crops and soil damage from using heavy machinery (21). Increased temperatures may increase damage by weeds, pests and diseases (4,21).

The agricultural sector is currently struggling with several problems to which climate-induced production gains are unlikely to provide any direct respite. Not only are real incomes from farming dropping, the farming population is also aging and many among the younger generations migrate to the cities or find nonagricultural forms of employment (3). … Many regions, sectors, and social groups both in developing and developed countries are ‘‘double exposed’’ to the processes of climate change and economic globalization, and they will have to adapt to both processes simultaneously (5). A reduction in agricultural subsidies to rural communities related to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Agriculture might, for example, exacerbate vulnerability to climate change (6).

Animal husbandry

Increased precipitation may negatively affect fitness of animals (25). While heat stress is not expected to be a big issue in Northern Norway, warmer conditions will support the dispersal of disease-bearing insects or other host animals (including new vectors currently limited by colder temperatures) and enhance the survival of viruses, thus increasing risk of infections to livestock (26).

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 (8).

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 (9).

The European population is expected to decline by about 8% over the period from 2000 to 2030 (10).

Scenarios on future changes in agriculture largely depend on assumptions about technological development for future agricultural land use in Europe (9). 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% (11).

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 (9).

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 (9).

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 (9). Over the shorter term (up to 2030) changes in agricultural land area may be small (12).

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 (9).

Europe is a major producer of biodiesel, accounting for 90% of the total production worldwide (13). In the Biofuels Progress Report (14), 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 (9).

Adaptation strategies

To take advantage of the extended growing season and higher growth potential, adaptive strategies include careful selection of crop species and cultivars, selection of sowing time and fertilization time and level, and crop rotation (to maintain good soil properties) (21). Increased productivity due to higher temperatures will most likely be accompanied by an increased need for fertilizers and pesticides with potentially negative environmental effects (27). Instead, increasing biodiversity is a good alternative to yield benefits, weed suppression and persistency (28). Introducing legumes into grassland swards will also reduce fertilizer requirements and improve N-use efficiency (21).

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 (19).

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 (19).

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 (19).


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

  1. Ministry of the Environment of Norway (2009)
  2. Torvanger et al. (2003), in: O’Brien et al. (2006)
  3. Gaasland (2004), in: O’Brien et al. (2006)
  4. Hessen and Wright (1993);  Øygarden (2003), both in: O’Brien et al. (2006)
  5. O’Brien and Leichenko (2000), in: O’Brien et al. (2006)
  6. O’Brien et al. (2006)
  7. EEA (2006), in: EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  8. EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  9. Rounsevell et al. (2005)
  10. UN (2004), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  11. Ewert et al. (2005), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  12. Van Meijl et al. (2006), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  13. JNCC (2007), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  14. European Commission (2006), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  15. EEA (2004), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  16. IPCC (2007), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  17. Ciscar et al. (2009), in: Behrens et al. (2010)
  18. Iglesias et al. (2009)
  19. Fischer et al. (2005)
  20. Hoglind et al. (2013)
  21. Uleberg et al. (2014)
  22. Volden et al. (2002), in: Uleberg et al. (2014)
  23. Thorsen and Höglind (2010), in: Uleberg et al. (2014)
  24. Howden et al. (2007), in: Uleberg et al. (2014)
  25. Lowe et al. (2001), in: Uleberg et al. (2014)
  26. Iglesias et al. (2012); Lafferty (2009), both in: Uleberg et al. (2014)
  27. Maracchi et al. (2005), in: Uleberg et al. (2014)
  28. Kirwan et al. (2007), in: Uleberg et al. (2014)
  29. Linderholm et al. (2008), in: Ruosteenoja et al. (2016)
  30. Spinoni et al. (2015), in: Ruosteenoja et al. (2016)
  31. Aalto et al. (2022)