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.