Food Security: Supporting climate action in the agricultural sector

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

The IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land (2019) emphasises the need to change the ways food is produced and land is managed to cut emissions and keep warming below 1.5°C compared to preindustrial levels.

At the same time, food security will be increasingly affected by future climate change through reduced yields, increased prices, reduced nutrient quality and supply chain disruptions.

Climate change has already negatively affected the agriculture sector in Europe, and the number of climate extreme events negatively affecting agriculture in Europe is projected to increase.

Sustainable land use and management approaches need to be informed by climate services to find optimal solutions under changing climate conditions.

Such climate services are based on climate model simulations projecting future climate evolutions.

Based on large regional climate model ensemble simulations, the Climate Service Center Germany (GERICS) co-develops climate service products in collaboration with key practice partners.

In the following, two recent example projects are presented, in which GERICS develops simulation-based products in new digital formats to inform climate adaptation and mitigation in the agricultural sector.

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Climate Information for adaptation to climate change in the agricultural sector – ADAPTER

Agriculture is among the economic sectors with the largest vulnerability to weather extremes and climate change, while being an important contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, actors from local farmers to international companies are increasingly required to face their role in other ecological challenges, like biodiversity loss, soil erosion and pollution from fertilisers, pesticides and other chemicals.

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

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

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Available information on climate change is typically not specific enough to help us answer these questions.

The knowledge transfer project ADAPTER 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 Centre Jülich and the Climate Service Center Germany (GERICS).

It aims to generate such knowledge in a close collaboration between climate scientists and agricultural advisors, farmers, plant breeding companies, educators, and the political administration, and thus help these actors adapt to climate change.

The results are published in digital form of freely available and scientifically sound tools on the project’s online platform.

Fig.1: The ADAPTER Climate calendar for climate change in critical crop development stages (here: winter rapeseed).

GERICS contributes to the platform with interactive tools to support the adaptation to climate change.

These tools rely on the most recent and most comprehensive database of regional climate model projections for Europe from the EURO-CORDEX ensemble.

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At the time of writing, three interactive tools are publicly available: A Climate Map Browser featuring more than 30,000 maps for Europe and Germany, a Climate Calendar that provides information tailored to typical soil-climate zones and to specific development stages where crops are most vulnerable (Fig. 1), and a risk assessment of exceeding critical physiological thresholds.

A variety of positive responses from users shows us that the transdisciplinary approach implemented in ADAPTER can contribute to a more sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture.

New digital format to transfer knowledge regarding mitigation potential in agriculture

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

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

This tool is being developed together with partners from Research Centre Jülich as part of the “Net-Zero-2050” project, the Cluster 1 of the “Helmholtz Climate Initiative” (HI-CAM), which is an interdisciplinary project that supports Germany on its way to achieving CO2 –neutrality before 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 for two main target groups: Decision makers in political and administrative entities and crop farmers willing to contribute to climate mitigation.

The users will have the option to select from different land management methods, including, for instance, changes in crop rotations or the cultivation of cover crops. Such methods have the potential to increase the amount of organic material in the soil and thus support climate mitigation.

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

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

While tools are available or being developed that either support farmers on the very local scale for today’s climate conditions or present climate change information on a coarser resolution, this app aims at providing a combination of climate model and land surface model output, covering Germany on a relatively high resolution.

The model output will be presented in the app graphically, in a concise, easy-to-understand way with supporting texts and interpretation.

Users can choose their region and variable of interest, and will be guided through the possible analyses in the form of maps and statistics.

To this end, the development bundles the analyses of land surface and climate model data and technical innovation and combines them with an appealing user interface. The app will be released in autumn 2021.

The Choice Press is an online news portal that seeks to project what the gallant small-scale farmers in Africa are doing. We basically report on everything that has to do with agriculture and agribusiness, especially in Ghana.
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