Support climate action in the agricultural sector

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Germany Climate Service Center (GERICS) here discusses how innovative climate service products can help inform climate change adaptation and mitigation, particularly in the agricultural sector

The IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land (2019) emphasizes the need to change patterns of food production and land management in order to reduce emissions and keep warming below 1, 5 ° C compared to pre-industrial levels. At the same time, food security will be increasingly affected by future climate change through reduced yields, higher prices, reduced nutrient quality and supply chain disruptions. Climate change has already negatively affected the agricultural sector in Europe, and the number of extreme weather events negatively affecting agriculture in Europe is expected to increase. Sustainable land use and management approaches need to be informed by climate services to find optimal solutions under changing climatic conditions. These climate services are based on simulations of climate models projecting future climate changes. Based on extensive simulations of regional climate model sets, the Climate Service Center Germany (GERICS) is co-developing climate service products in collaboration with key practice partners. In the following, two examples of recent projects are presented, in which GERICS is developing simulation-based products in new digital formats to inform adaptation and mitigation of climate change in the agricultural sector.

Climate information for adaptation to climate change in the agricultural sector – ADAPT

Agriculture is one of the economic sectors most vulnerable to extreme weather events and climate change, while being a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, actors, from local farmers to international companies, are increasingly called upon to assume their role in other ecological challenges, such as biodiversity loss, soil erosion and pollution by fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals.

Identifying the optimal pathways to adapt to the multitude of challenges requires answers to questions such as:

  • What crops are suitable to help increase the diversity of crop rotations and increase resilience to pests, while fitting into an appropriate climatic niche where the risks of yield losses due to extreme weather events are minimal?
  • What are the ideal sites to test such varieties, to select meteorological events representative of a future climate?
  • What soil management or irrigation practices can compensate for changes in soil moisture associated with climate change?

The information available on climate change is generally not precise enough to help us answer these questions. The ADAPTER knowledge transfer project is funded by the Helmholtz Association in 2019-2023 as a joint research project of the Institute for Bio- and Geosciences (IGB-3) of the Research Center Jülich and the Climate Service Center Germany ( GERICS). It aims to generate such knowledge in close collaboration between climatologists and agricultural advisers, farmers, plant breeding companies, educators and political administration, and thus help these actors to adapt to climate change. The results are published in digital form as tools available free of charge and scientifically based on the online platform of the project.

Fig. 1: The ADAPT climate calendar for climate change at critical stages of crop development (here: winter rapeseed).

GERICS contributes to the platform with interactive tools to support adaptation to climate change. These tools are based on the most recent and comprehensive database of regional climate model projections for Europe from the EURO-CORDEX set. At the time of writing, three interactive tools are available to the public: a climate map browser containing over 30,000 maps for Europe and Germany, a climate calendar that provides information tailored to typical soil climatic zones and stages of development where crops are most vulnerable (Fig. 1), and an assessment of the risk of exceeding critical physiological thresholds. A variety of positive responses from users show us that the transdisciplinary approach implemented in ADAPTER can contribute to more sustainable and climate resilient agriculture.

New digital format to transfer knowledge about mitigation potential in agriculture

Mitigation is becoming an increasingly important aspect for the agricultural sector to consider.

As a tool to implement mitigation requirements in the agricultural sector, GERICS is developing a Soil Carbon application that provides land surface and climate data for Germany for future periods, focusing on the effects of land management methods on carbon storage in agricultural soils.

This tool is developed in collaboration with partners of the Jülich Research Center within the framework of the “Net-Zero-2050“, Pole 1 of”Helmholtz Climate Initiative”(HI-CAM), which is an interdisciplinary project that supports Germany on the path to CO2 neutrality by 2050, jointly by GERICS and several project partners.

The Soil Carbon app will be unique in providing local information on the potential for carbon sequestration for different land management options under changing climatic conditions. This information is of interest to two main target groups: decision-makers in political and administrative entities and farmers wishing to contribute to climate change mitigation.

Users will be able to choose from different land management methods, including, for example, changes in crop rotations or the cultivation of cover crops. Such methods have the potential to increase the amount of organic matter in the soil and therefore help mitigate climate change.

The carbon sequestration potentials of the methods are closely related to climatic conditions, as is the applicability of these land management options; thus, they may need to be adapted to changing climatic conditions.

The application takes this into account, through the use of future climate projections.

While tools are available or under development that support farmers at a very local scale for today’s climatic conditions or present climate change information at coarser resolution, this app aims to provide an combination of climate model and land surface model output, covering Germany at relatively high resolution.

The output of the model will be presented in the application in a graphical form, in a concise and easy to understand manner, with supporting texts and interpretation. Users can choose their region and variable of interest, and will be guided through the possible analyzes in the form of maps and statistics.

To this end, the development brings together analyzes of land surface and climate model data and technical innovation and combines them with an attractive user interface. The app will be released in fall 2021.

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© 2019. This work is under license CC-BY-NC-ND.

  • Climate Services Center - GERICS

    Germany Climate Service Center (GERICS)

    The Climate Service Center Germany (GERICS) was launched by the German Federal Government in 2009 as a fundamental part of the German high-tech strategy for climate protection. Since June 2014, GERICS has been a scientific organizational unit of Helmholtz-Zentrum hereon GmbH. The director of GERICS is the meteorologist and climatologist Prof. Dr. Daniela Jacob. Mission […]

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