Scientists: Farming in Estonia to get more difficult

Dried-out field.
Dried-out field. Source: Olev Kenk/ERR

A new analysis by the Estonian University of Life Sciences confirms that the frequency of extreme weather conditions has increased over recent years, which in turn increases the likelihood that Estonia's agricultural producers will have to reckon with more challenging environmental conditions in the future.

Data of the past three decades shows that of the common plants grown by Estonian farmers, the cultures most likely to fail are various kinds of beans as well as buckwheat. Winter crops, permanent crops and plants grown for feed are also affected, the study shows.

According to the study's estimates, the likelihood is increasing that in the long term the average air temperature will increase by 2-4°C. This change would bring longer dry spells as well as heat waves. Over the first half of the years included in the available data, the Tartu area experienced nine heat waves that lasted for more than seven days. In three years more than one heat wave was registered.

In the second half of the period covered by the research, 15 such heat waves were registered, with three years registering more than one, the most extreme case being the year 2010 with no fewer than four. The model used in the analyses forecasts an increase in crop heat unites of some 10 percent.

This means that while relatively new plants like field beans have been considered up-and-coming crops, this could now change, as a sensible yield could only be expected in very good years. According to the study, farmers couldn't be sure about that from year to year.

It is possible for farmers to adapt to these changes, but investments in the flexibility of their technology are needed. Farmers will also have to work towards improving soil quality, making winter crops more resistant, and using a more diverse selection of crops. In terms of feed crops grown, more attention will have to be paid to self-sufficiency.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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