Serbia Serbia Serbia Serbia

Agriculture and horticulture Serbia

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 (1). 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 (2).


Agriculture covers 65% of land area in Serbia. Agriculture traditionally employs more than 10% of working age population and contributes 26% to the country’s export revenues. In 2000, agriculture contributed 21,9% to GDP, whereas agriculture and food industry together contributed approximately 40% to GDP. With respect to the revenues from international trade, agriculture has contributed mostly through meat, vegetable and fruit export (11). In 2015, the economic share of agriculture in Serbia's economy was 6.5% (15). 

Vulnerabilities Serbia


The impact of climate change on crop yield has been estimated with climate and crop yield models (А2 and B2 emission scenarios) for the period 2031–2060 in comparison to period 1961–1990. Neglecting the CO2 fertilizer effect resulted in a yield drop in all the considered crops (corn, sunflower, soy, potato and wheat) under both emission scenarios. Including this effect resulted in smaller decreases or increases (especially wheat) of crop yield, depending on the crop and the scenario (11).


The Autonomous Province of Vojvodina is located in northern Serbia and is the most important agricultural area in the country. Climate change impacts on agriculture and horticulture in Vojvodina have been observed) (9):

  • During the last 10 years, the more frequent and intensive appearance of powdery mildew on cereals, Fusarium head blight, Cercospora leaf spot, sunflower blight, and potato and tomato Alternaria spot leaf was observed. These are all indicators of changed climate conditions, since their development requires high night temperatures in spring and high temperatures in summer, accompanied by showers;
  • Fruit production is particularly vulnerable to the increased frequency of extreme weather events such as spring frost, hail, extremely low winter temperatures, lack of precipitation (in particular in July and August) and/or extremely high precipitation intensity during the growing season;
  • The vegetation period for winter and summer crops is becoming shorter due to the trend towards temperatures above the biological minimum (2003, 2007, 2008). Although these conditions significantly affect plant growth, they do not necessarily lead to a decrease in yield. In the case of thermophile summer plants, high temperatures should not negatively affect development, although big variations in temperature can cause significant plant stress and increase vulnerability to pests and diseases;
  • Damage spots influenced by high solar radiation intensity and high temperatures can be frequently observed on fruits and vegetables.

According to a number of climate models, a decrease in winter wheat yield of between 3.7 and 16.8% is projected for 2040. For 2080, a significant positive and negative change in yield is obtained depending on the model used (9). The direct effect of CO2 on winter wheat yield mostly compensates the negative indirect effects, producing a positive yield effect. This study showed that for 2080, for instance, according to all GCMs used in the study, an increase in yield is expected in the range of 28 to 73.6% compared with 1985 to 2005, under the assumption of a CO2 concentration of 1,050 ppm for 2080 (9).

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 (2).

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 (3).

The European population is expected to decline by about 8% over the period from 2000 to 2030 (4).

Scenarios on future changes in agriculture largely depend on assumptions about technological development for future agricultural land use in Europe (3). 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% (5).

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 (3).

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 (3).

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

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 (3).

Europe is a major producer of biodiesel, accounting for 90% of the total production worldwide (7). In the Biofuels Progress Report (8), 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 (3).

Adaptation strategies in Serbia

Some of the most effective adaptation strategies are (9,11):

  • Reduction in evapotranspiration. A reduction in evapotranspiration can be achieved by a reduction in wind speed (using hedgerows and windbreaks); an increase in soil conductivity (mulching); and a reduction in available energy (shading). Effective shading can be achieved by anti-hail nets (where possible), which are, at the same time, an effective method of protection against hail. However, in the case of large variations in canopy temperature and humidity, nets can create a more stable microclimate, reducing the drought stress of plants (9);
  • Crop- and soil-related measures. Crop-related adaptation measures should be focused on the adaptation of crop rotation; the reduction of spring crops; an increase in the area of winter crops (for better use of soil water); the adaptation of the crop-growing period; and the introduction of new crops and cultivars with better drought tolerance and water use efficiency. In order to increase soil water storage capacity, it is necessary to reduce soil cultivation and improve soil structure (9);
  • Policy-level adaptation measures. Among the most important are the improvement or development of operational monitoring systems (for weather extremes, pests and diseases); and the improvement of information systems and know-how among farmers and agricultural advisors about climate change impacts, natural systems, the sustainability of production and efficient low-cost adaptation measures. It is also important to improve links between research and practice (that is, between scientists, advisors and teachers) and to support breeders to improve the genetic diversity of crops. At regional and national level, the long-term management of natural resources (irrigation infrastructure, for example) should be improved and increased land use diversity should be encouraged (9). In addition, new insurance mechanism should be introduced, and early warning systems of droughts and other extreme climate episodes of importance to agriculture should be improved (11);
  • Risk reduction. Improving irrigation and drainage; Investing in new irrigation systems and related infrastructure; Adjusting harvest dates and the field work calendar to the new climate conditions; Changing mulching practices; Introducing measures to protect land from erosion; Changing practices concerning the use of fertilisers and chemicals (11). 

Model calculations (13) show that over the Mediterranean basin:

  • an advanced sowing time may result in a successful strategy especially for summer crops. The advancement of anthesis and grain filling stages allowed the summer crops to partially escape the heat waves and drought;
  • irrigation highly increase the yield of the selected crops. In general, requirements for summer crops were larger than for winter crops. Accordingly, the beneficial effects of this strategy were more evident for summer crops.

The use of irrigation to tackle summer water stress in southern Europe include a number of structural adaptations for enhancing water storage via increasing storage capacity for surface water (construction of  retention reservoirs and dams), and groundwater (aquifer recharge); rainwater harvesting and storage; conjunctive use of surface water and groundwater; water transfer; desalination of sea water; removing of invasive non-native vegetation; and deep well pumping (14).

Adaptation strategies

According to the Work Bank, the following adaptation measures hold the greatest promise for Eastern European countries, independent of climate change scenarios (12):

  • 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 Serbia.

  1. EEA (2006), in: EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  2. EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  3. Rounsevell et al. (2005)
  4. UN (2004), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  5. Ewert et al. (2005), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  6. Van Meijl et al. (2006), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  7. JNCC (2007), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  8. European Commission (2006), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  9. Lalic and Mihailovic (2011)
  10. Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia (2006), in: Lalic and Mihailovic (2011)
  11. The Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning of the Republic of Serbia (2010)
  12. World Bank Group (2009)
  13. Moriondo et al. (2010)
  14. Kundzewicz et al. (2007), in: Moriondo et al. (2010)
  15. Stevović et al. (2015), in: Milovanović et al. (2022)