Agriculture and Horticulture Slovenia
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 (3). 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 (4).
Agricultural land which is in use, not including overgrown and uncultivated land, amounts to 509,709 ha. Meadows and pastures make up 60%, fields and gardens 34% and permanent plantations 6%. The percentage of agriculture in value added in 2003 was 3%, which is 1.5% less than in 1995. The most important branch of Slovenian agriculture is animal husbandry, which accounts for 56% of agricultural production, of which the highest share is of cattle breeding, followed by poultry and pig breeding. Farming contributes around 42% to agricultural production (1).
The expected negative effects of climate change on Slovenian agriculture include (2):
- shortened growing periods;
- more intensive evapotranspiration, and thus greater probability of water shortage as a factor restraining growth;
- greater probability of extreme weather events - storms entailing wind, hail and heavy downpours, frosts, droughts and floods;
- reduced yield in some regions regarding plants which, at a specific phenological stage, are sensitive to extreme temperatures;
- change in the frequency and intensity of attacks by pests and diseases;
- problems with vernalisation - negative effects of increased temperatures in a period of inactivity.
It has been assessed that the expected negative effects will be more pronounced than the positive ones. As a result, we can expect that the price per unit produced will be higher. Damage can be particularly severe due to water shortages. This has been supported by the fact that in the last decade droughts have caused significant losses of agricultural produce (2).
In Slovenia, agriculture does not constitute a significant direct share in the national economy, but it does have a substantial social significance, at the same time performing the function of preserving the cultural landscape. The expected negative effects of climate change on agriculture can therefore be considered important (2).
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 (4).
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 (5).
The European population is expected to decline by about 8% over the period from 2000 to 2030 (6).
Scenarios on future changes in agriculture largely depend on assumptions about technological development for future agricultural land use in Europe (5). 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% (7).
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 (5).
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 (5).
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 (5). Over the shorter term (up to 2030) changes in agricultural land area may be small (8).
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 (5).
Europe is a major producer of biodiesel, accounting for 90% of the total production worldwide (9). In the Biofuels Progress Report (10), 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 (5).
Benefits from climate change
The effects of climate change on corn and summer barley produce has been assessed (2). Corn accounts for 40% of sown field areas in Slovenia. The simulation took into account the conditions applying to central Slovenia.
The results show that the effects of climate change on corn cultivation in the region under examination will be positive. The average yield in the medium term, assuming a temperature increase of 1⁰C and an unchanged quantity of rainfall, would be 20% higher than in the comparative period, while in the event of warming by 2.5⁰C, it would be 16% higher. A higher temperature increase and a smaller quantity of rainfall (+3.5⁰C, -10% rainfall) in the long run nearly completely cancels out the positive effects of increased concentrations of CO2, as yield would increase by a mere 3%.
In the case of summer barley, in the medium term and assuming a temperature increase of 1⁰C and an unchanged quantity of rainfall, the average yield would be 10% higher, while in the long term, assuming a temperature increase of 2.5⁰C, it would be a mere 3% higher. Despite the fertilising effect of increased concentrations of CO2, in the long term, at a temperature increase of 3.5⁰C and a decrease in rainfall of 10%, the summer barley yield would be 24% less.
The expected positive effects of climate change on Slovenian agriculture include (2):
- more produce due to the fertilising effect of greater concentrations of CO2;
- longer vegetational period, which in some areas opens up the possibility of several sowings and enhances the possibility of stubble crops;
- more appropriate temperature conditions for the cultivation of temperature-sensitive plants;
- expansion of the range of culture plants in higher altitude regions.
A range of adaptations will be necessary in the sphere of crop production. These include (1):
- changing sowing dates;
- changing varieties used (exchanging later crops with earlier);
- more intense fertilisation to compensate for the reduced growing time and water shortage;
- changes in sowing structure, farm production policy and production technology;
- changes to crop rotation;
- improving soil state during droughts by increasing humus/topsoil;
- construction of irrigation systems to combat negative environmental impact and if suitable water resources exist for irrigation, guided irrigation using irrigation models and taking into account meteorological conditions and weather forecasts to optimise water use, and ensuring permanent and natural balancing of agricultural crop production on irrigated surfaces;
- protecting agricultural land from extreme conditions.
In the long run, the most important project in relation to agricultural production is the provision of irrigation capacities. To this end, spatial reservations must be preserved for the planned water reservoirs, and the possibilities must be investigated of including in spatial plans new areas suitable for reservoirs (2).
According to the Work Bank, the following adaptation measures hold the greatest promise for Eastern European countries, independent of climate change scenarios (11):
- 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 Slovenia.
- Republic of Slovenia, Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning (2006)
- Republic of Slovenia, Ministry of the Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy (2002)
- 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)
- World Bank Group (2009)