Poland Poland Poland Poland


Agriculture and Horticulture Poland

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 (4). 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 (5).

Vulnerabilities Poland

In Poland three sectors are recognized as being most vulnerable to climate change and having the most significant socioeconomic consequences: water management, coastal zone management, and agriculture (1). Over the last years an increasing frequency of extreme events has been observed in Poland, such as prolonged droughts, floods, storms and heavy showers, which resulted in reduced agricultural production and water shortage (2).

The specific structure of the Polish agriculture is still, in most cases, characterized by the dispersion and farms with small acreage, as well as traditional production methods. Therefore, the Polish agriculture may suffer more from climate change than the agriculture in most EU countries of a different agriculture structure (3).

Results of crops forecasts for the years 2071-2100 show that, depending on the climatic scenario applied, average crop yield in Poland will change slightly. In comparison with the period 1961-1990, projections with one model indicate an average crop yield decrease in central Poland by approximately 5%, and an increase by approximately 5% in northern Poland. Projections with another model, however, forecast considerable decrease of crops in most parts of Poland, by 5% in the northern part, up to 10% in the central part, and up to 15% in the southwestern part. Both models indicate a considerable crop growth of 30% in mountain areas (3). More recently, a reduction of crop yield for popatoes and wheat of 11% and 15% was projected for most of Poland for 2061–2090 compared with 1961–1990 (13); for some parts of Poland, however, an increase of crop yield was projected.

Based on agricultural and water management scenarios under doubling CO2 concentration, mostly negative changes in food production are expected in Poland. Potato yield may reduce by approx. 30% as a result of water deficit. Cereal yield may reduce by approx. 15% as a result of winter pest population and virus death. There are also positive effects: the length of the vegetation period will be extended by more than 10 days, biomass production will increase by approx. 30% owing to more intensive photosynthesis, and husbandry production will increase due to increased biomass production (1). More recently, mean changes in the length of vegetation period between 1961–1990 and 2061–2090 was projected of between 30 and 40 days, for nearly all of the country (13).

Water-related projections demonstrate that the water budget is likely to become increasingly stressed. Under present climate, evapotranspiration exceeds precipitation in summer, and this leads to depletion of the water storage (on the surface, in the soil and in the ground). This summer water budget (evapotranspiration minus precipitation) deficit is projected to increase further in the future, so that in order to use the agro-potential of the environment, higher additional water supplies would be needed. However, already the present scanty water resources of Poland do not allow massive irrigation and the situation is likely to become more severe in future (13).


Initially, owing to warmer temperatures, the decrease in precipitation and the longer growing seasons, there may be an improvement in crop productivity (cereals, oilseeds and sugar beet) in countries such as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania (12).

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 (5).

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 (6).

The European population is expected to decline by about 8% over the period from 2000 to 2030 (7).

Scenarios on future changes in agriculture largely depend on assumptions about technological development for future agricultural land use in Europe (6). 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% (8).

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 (6).

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 (6).

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

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 (6).

Europe is a major producer of biodiesel, accounting for 90% of the total production worldwide (10). In the Biofuels Progress Report (11), 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 (6).

Adaptation strategies

An increase of water consumption is projected, due to an expected increase of evapotranspiration and a decrease of rainfall in the growing period. It may turn out that the limited access to water after 2030 will restrict agriculture development. A water management strategy for agriculture, therefore, needs to be developed that focuses on demands for irrigating field and fruit crops, and industrial plants. The growing of plant varieties characterized by less water demands (heat-wave- and drought-tolerant crops) should be propagated, in particular in areas of periodic water shortages, as well as effective irrigation methods. Simultaneously water should be used more effectively (3). In addition, agrotechnical practices should be changed (e.g., use of crop rotation, advancing sowing dates) and soil moisture should be conserved e.g. through mulching (13).

A number of terms and conditions of good agricultural conduct should be developed and implemented (3):

  • The climate change impact on the agricultural production should be monitored and farmers should be trained on how to adapt to climate change.
  • Research should be carried out on new varieties of cultivated plants that are resistant to water and thermal stresses. The occurrence of diseases and pests in changing habitat conditions should be studied, and practices should be conducted to decrease the vulnerability of crops to diseases and pests.
  • The information on climate change and adoption measures should be popularized and education on these issues should be supported.
  • Measures to prevent soil erosion, such as setting up woodlots, should be intensified.
  • Animals should be protected against high temperatures in grazing lands.

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 Poland.

  1. Sadowski (2008)
  2. Gorski et al. (1994); Kaczmarek et al. (1997); Sadowski and Tomaszewska (1995), in: Sadowski (2008)
  3. Ministry of the Environment and the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Managementof the Republic of Poland (2010)
  4. EEA (2006), in: EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  5. EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  6. Rounsevell et al. (2005)
  7. UN (2004), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  8. Ewert et al. (2005), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  9. Van Meijl et al. (2006), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  10. JNCC (2007), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  11. European Commission (2006), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  12. Behrens et al. (2010)
  13. Szwed et al. (2010)
  14. World Bank Group (2009)