The agricultural sector is extremely sensitive to direct and indirect impact of changes in environmental conditions like temperature, water availability, incidence of light, evaporation trough plants and soils, soil quality, CO2,…
Although the moderate consequences of climate change (increased temperature and concentration of CO2 ) can lead to an increased yield, more extreme conditions will affect the agriculture in a negative way, leading to loss of production due to drought and water stress, loss of fertile soils, heath stress for cattle, new diseases, decrease of resilience, invasive species, effects on food quality, socio-economical and psychological impact,…
An increased frequency of extreme events or circumstances is to be expected (periods of drought, flooding and erosion due to extreme precipitation), which can produce major damage. Dependent on the timing, crops can be more or less affected, and the final impact can be more or less disastrous.
The soil plays an important role in the resilience of agriculture. Heavy precipitation is responsible for a high loss of soil by erosion. This is a very important topic in Belgium. This soil slides also cause problems like mud flows and flooding downstream.
In Belgium priority is given to permanent meadows as a condition for European support to the agricultural sector.
In the Walloon region there is a program on sustainable management of nitrogen in soils, which converts the Directive on Nitrate through a coherent overall of obligations in favor of conservation of humus in the soil: sustainable management of organic substances. Climate change is also one of the crucial challenges in the new programs for rural development.
The Catholic University of Leuven developed a study in 2008 to make an inventory of the possibilities for climate change adaptation in the Flemish agricultural sector and their potential. The most important results from the study show that the financial losses will be moderate, between 0,1% and 4,1%, dependent on the degree of climate change. If the agricultural sector adapts t climate change, the losses can be limited to 0% – 0,4%. Especially summer droughts can have a negative impact on crops with shallow roots like beetroot.
A study in the context of the AMICE project showed that adaptation measures, taken in the Meuse basin, (f.e. a change in timing of sowing and harvesting), can reduce the negative impact of climate change with almost 50%.
Another initiative is the GISER-unit. Technical experts and scientists work together with cities, agricultural associations and farmers to solve and prevent problems of erosion, flooding and mud flows. The tasks of GISER are improvement of knowledge on erosion, to provide technical recommendations, exchange of experiences and to provide information on integrated management methodologies for soil, erosion and floods.
European Environmental Agency ‘Climate change adaptation in the agricultural sector in Europe‘ (2019)
Folder “Goed geboerd? Ook het klimaat is u dankbaar!” (NL) of the Flemish Region
Compendium of techniques and methods for managing flood and mudslide problems in rural areas (GISER) (FR)(GISER)
Studies on the impact of climate change on the performance and yields of agricultural crops (project CORDEX.be)