The impor­tance of the cli­mate for agriculture 

The cli­mate is one of the major influ­en­tial fac­tors in agri­cul­ture. The term “cli­mate” – unlike “weath­er” – describes the atmos­pher­ic con­di­tions to be expect­ed over a long peri­od. In con­trast, “weath­er” denotes the per­cep­ti­ble, short-term atmos­pher­ic con­di­tions at a spe­cif­ic loca­tion on the plan­et. Essen­tial­ly, the cli­mate dic­tates which crops can be cul­ti­vat­ed in the open air. It also has con­se­quences for live­stock farm­ing. In short: The cli­mate fun­da­men­tal­ly deter­mines what types of land use are possible.

Var­i­ous ele­ments must be exam­ined in order to describe the influ­ence of the cli­mate on agri­cul­ture. Phe­nol­o­gy – the study of sea­son­al growth and devel­op­ment phe­nom­e­na – allows us to draw cer­tain impor­tant con­clu­sions for agri­cul­ture with regard to the cli­mate. Before the advent of reli­able weath­er reports, these types of obser­va­tions were used to pre­dict the weath­er through coun­try lore. Nowa­days, the lat­est mod­els use sen­sors and satel­lite tech­nol­o­gy to pro­duce mean­ing­ful fore­casts. The cli­mate para­me­ters that are impor­tant for agri­cul­ture are incor­po­rat­ed into pow­er­ful soft­ware pro­grammes such as the meteoblue Weath­er Pro­fes­sion­al com­po­nent of the 365FarmNet platform.

The most influ­en­tial cli­mate fac­tors are pre­cip­i­ta­tion, tem­per­a­ture and sun­light. These have a direct effect on plants and ani­mals in farm­ing. They also deter­mine the spread of pests. Par­tic­u­lar­ly in arable farm­ing, the farm­ing cli­mate can some­times pro­duce favourable growth con­di­tions for pests such as fun­gi. Alter­na­tive­ly, it might gen­er­ate drought stress, which can increase plant sus­cep­ti­bil­i­ty to dis­ease. This alone demon­strates how crit­i­cal the cli­mate is for suc­cess­ful crop cul­ti­va­tion in agri­cul­ture. Below, we explain the effects of cli­mate fac­tors on agri­cul­ture in detail.

Effects of the cli­mate on crop cultivation 

Das The cli­mate is one of the key loca­tion-based fac­tors in farm­ing. Cli­mat­ic con­di­tions dic­tate not only whether a plant will grow but also how it will grow. Yields, yield sta­bil­i­ty and qual­i­ty are also close­ly con­nect­ed to the cli­mate. The fact is, that with the excep­tion of pre­cip­i­ta­tion, cli­mat­ic con­di­tions can­not be adjust­ed to suit agri­cul­tur­al requirements.

Low pre­cip­i­ta­tion can at least par­tial­ly be bal­anced out by irri­ga­tion, and too much rain­fall can be drained away. How­ev­er, if pre­cip­i­ta­tion remains low for longer peri­ods of time, the decrease in the ground­wa­ter lev­el means that this will no longer work. In terms of how the cli­mate affects farm­ing, the tim­ing of pre­cip­i­ta­tion plays a role in addi­tion to the total annu­al rain­fall. Large amounts of rain over a short peri­od of time are dif­fi­cult for the ground to absorb, which is where well-root­ed, humus-rich soils have the advan­tage. Soil of this kind can absorb greater quan­ti­ties of water, which pre­vents nutri­ents from run­ning off the sur­face. Increased soil aggre­gate sta­bil­i­ty and water infil­tra­tion as a result of con­sis­tent veg­e­ta­tion are the right solu­tion for an adapt­ed water man­age­ment strat­e­gy when respond­ing to the chang­ing cli­mate in farming.

The cor­rect choice of crop vari­ety is anoth­er mea­sure farm­ers can use to align their farm­ing strat­e­gy with cli­mat­ic con­di­tions. Some crop vari­eties have a high tol­er­ance to drought stress, for exam­ple. How­ev­er, even for this kind of crop, exces­sive­ly long dry spells can result in high yield loss­es or crop fail­ures. On the oth­er hand, exces­sive mois­ture increas­es the sus­cep­ti­bil­i­ty of plants to dis­ease. Appro­pri­ate vari­eties for these con­di­tions exist, too. A farm man­age­ment infor­ma­tion sys­tem can help to analyse how such vari­eties can be inte­grat­ed into exist­ing crop rota­tions. An exam­ple of this is the Crop and Seed Plan­ning tool by 365FarmNet, which incor­po­rates the entire cat­a­logue of the Bun­dessorte­namt (Ger­man Nation­al Office for Plant Vari­eties). Note: A broad and diver­si­fied crop rota­tion is impor­tant in any case when it comes to risk man­age­ment and dis­ease avoidance/prevention.

Tem­per­a­ture is anoth­er key fac­tor. In order to grow, plants require a spe­cif­ic tem­per­a­ture range, and this can dif­fer depend­ing on their growth phase. The ide­al tem­per­a­ture range for wheat is between approx. 10°C and 25°C, for exam­ple. If the farm­ing cli­mate devi­ates too far from this range, the crops can suf­fer from cold or heat stress. Ver­nal­i­sa­tion is an excep­tion to this. Dur­ing ear­ly devel­op­ment, wheat requires tem­per­a­tures below zero to form repro­duc­tive organs, for instance. This effect can be prob­lem­at­ic for sug­ar beet, how­ev­er. After expo­sure to tem­per­a­tures below zero, bolt­ing can occur. This is char­ac­terised by small beets with a cor­re­spond­ing­ly low yield. In fruit farm­ing, late frosts in spring­time can also cause dam­age to buds, endan­ger­ing yields. These exam­ples show that the rec­i­p­ro­cal effects of the cli­mate in agri­cul­ture are extreme­ly complex.

Sun­light, nature’s dri­ving force, is anoth­er impor­tant fac­tor. Too much sun can scald leaves and crops, inhibit­ing pho­to­syn­the­sis and restrict­ing growth. The amount of bio­mass pro­duced by a crop depends on its growth rate and devel­op­ment time. The lat­ter describes the time between the plant emerg­ing and it being har­vest­ed. Growth rate, on the oth­er hand, denotes the quan­ti­ty of bio­mass pro­duced per unit of time, and decreas­es as tem­per­a­ture increas­es. In the case of wheat, for exam­ple, this means that farms with mild win­ters and rel­a­tive­ly cool sum­mers can achieve high­er yields than those with harsh win­ters and extreme­ly hot summers.

For agri­cul­ture, any extreme weath­er con­di­tions are prob­lem­at­ic. Intense hail can com­plete­ly destroy foliage, as can heavy storms. Plants can snap or start to lodge dur­ing storms, pre­vent­ing them from thriv­ing. These adverse cli­mat­ic effects on farm­ing can cause crops to fail and make plan­ning difficult.

Align­ment strate­gies in response to cli­mate changes in agriculture

Var­i­ous mea­sures can be tak­en to align crop cul­ti­va­tion strate­gies with the farm­ing cli­mate. Prac­ti­cal solu­tions include devel­op­ing a localised strat­e­gy and select­ing vari­eties with the appro­pri­ate prop­er­ties. Extreme weath­er con­di­tions with heavy rain or long dry spells can be coun­tered with adjust­ed crop rota­tions and tillage prac­tices. Farm­ers can gain a full pic­ture of their far­m’s crop sta­tus by going dig­i­tal with a farm man­age­ment infor­ma­tion sys­tem. The free basic ver­sion of 365FarmNet is a great choice. It allows farm­ers to plan new crop rota­tions in advance and sim­u­late their appli­ca­tion on the farm. They can also use dig­i­talised doc­u­men­ta­tion to mea­sure and opti­mise the results of their strategy.

Mak­ing the right choice of crop vari­ety is essen­tial when respond­ing to cli­mate changes in agri­cul­ture. Employ­ing a localised strat­e­gy and crop man­age­ment sys­tem – for exam­ple, grow­ing vari­eties in dif­fer­ent matu­ri­ty groups or with dif­fer­ent root sys­tems – can help to man­age risk and adapt to cli­mat­ic con­di­tions. It is advis­able to choose vari­eties that can tol­er­ate sun­light and tem­po­rary water short­ages. Pest resis­tance and nutri­ent and water effi­cien­cy also con­tribute to favourable results.

Clever water man­age­ment plays a part in suc­cess­ful crop cul­ti­va­tion, too. Increased soil aggre­gate sta­bil­i­ty and water infil­tra­tion through con­sis­tent veg­e­ta­tion are help­ful fac­tors if heavy rain­fall is an issue. In regions prone to long dry spells, water-sav­ing cul­ti­va­tion tech­niques such as mulch tillage and direct seed­ing are high­ly ben­e­fi­cial. If rain­fall is not able to ful­ly meet the needs of crops, it also makes sense to obtain a water abstrac­tion licence for field irrigation.

When it comes to tillage, the pri­or­i­ties are soil pro­tec­tion and humus pro­duc­tion. Top­soil that is bio­log­i­cal­ly active, per­me­able, aer­at­ed and well-pen­e­trat­ed with roots should be at the heart of an adapt­ed cul­ti­va­tion strat­e­gy. This pro­tects against ero­sion, nutri­ent leach­ing and evap­o­ra­tion, which improves humus for­ma­tion and water reten­tion, and pro­motes soil life. Soil-improv­ing crops with deep tap­roots increase the poros­i­ty of the soil and there­fore its capac­i­ty for root pen­e­tra­tion. Harm­ful soil com­paction must there­fore be avoid­ed at all costs if your goal is to adapt your farm to the cli­mate. Ulti­mate­ly, adap­ta­tion is the best response to our chang­ing agri­cul­tur­al climate.

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