Agriculture and extreme weather

Map of northern Europe with blue dots on Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Ireland. Illustration.

Effects of extreme weather on agricultural production and environment

Project leader: Marianne Bechmann, Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO)

Period: 2018-2019

Flooded field with cloudy sky. Photo.


The Nordic countries developed in the early and mid 1990’s a common concept of monitoring of environmental effects of agricultural activities. The monitoring set up consists of a number of small representative agricultural dominated catchments within each country.

The primary goal of the programmes are to quantify the pollutant losses to surface waters. The monitoring programmes collect data on agricultural management practices (e.g. date of soil ploughing, date of sowing and harvest and fertilizer inputs) and crop yield data down at single field level.

Furthermore, stream water nutrient, sediment and pesticide concentrations and hydrometeorological data (e.g. water discharge, temperature, precipitation) at the catchment level are collected. As such, we have a unique possibility to analyze the interactions between climate, agricultural production and pollutant losses from the agricultural landscape.

Based on the data held within the monitoring network we will do retrospective analyses of the effects of past extreme weather (hot/cold/dry/wet) on harvest yields, hydrology (total flow, flow components), loss of sediments, loss of nutrients, and loss of pesticides. The insight thus gained will strengthen our ability to forecast the effects of climate change with expected more extreme weather.

Such an analysis of the past to predict the future has not been performed on this data set.

Forestry is an important part of bioeconomy in the Nordic countries. Therefore, the project will include forestry monitoring programmes (e.g. SWETHRO) to investigate the effects of climate change on forestry, e.g. how increasing temperatures (affecting productivity and the resilience to storm events), changed precipitation (affecting hydrology) and storm events (sea salt episodes, damage to the forest, increased risk of bark beetle infestations and nitrogen leaching from forests) may be affected.

Moreover, the impact of climate change on natural background load is important to consider properly when assessing the load from agricultural land and the impact of other human activities on water quality. The network partners have access to data on pollutant loads from forest and natural background areas, and the comparison and improvement of methods for quantification of pollutant losses from natural background areas will be carried out within the network.

The respective countries covered by the network have had different views on the environment and different policies towards regulation of agriculture, policies that also have shifted over the last 25 years. Hence, the described data offers a unique possibility to investigate which policies and individual measures have had an effect and which not. Thus, we aim at generating valuable information for future policy and planning.

Within the Horizon 2020 Societal challenge (SC2) on Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine, maritime and inland water research and the bioeconomy, there are several topics related to the Environment and climate-smart food production and consumption programme, which could be relevant for this network. The network will contribute to the development of possible synergies of comparing results from the various countries with their differences in climatic and farming conditions.

Main goal

The goal for the period of the application is to collectively as a Nordic and North European network strengthen our ability to take lead of funding applications for e.g. upcoming Horizon2020 programme or JPI.

Long-term goal

The long-term aim of this network is to establish a solid platform for Nordic researchers to cooperate in the cross-cutting research fields of climate-change, agricultural production including forest and environmental impacts. The network will contribute to increased regional synergy within agriculture, bioeconomy and food research within the Nordic countries and Northern Europe.


The network participants include representatives from the Agricultural Environmental Monitoring programmes in the Nordic countries. The participants from Norway are Marianne Bechmann, Johannes Deelstra and Torsten Starkloff (NIBIO), from Denmark Brian Kronvang, Hans Estrup Andersen, Gitte Blicher-Mathiesen, Jane Rosenstand Poulsen (Århus University), from Sweden Sofie Hellsten (Swedish Environment Research Institute), Katarina Kyllmar, Helena Linefur (Swedish University of Agfricultural Science), from Finland Katri Rankinen (Finnish Environment Institute), from Estonia Arvo Iital (Tallinn Technical University), from Latvia Ainis Lagzdins (Latvia University of Agriculture) and from Ireland Per-Erik Mellander (The Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority).


Networking activities

The activities will be based on an established informal network within Agricultural Environmental Monitoring programmes in the Nordic countries and other North European countries (see special issue of Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 2014, vol. 198).

The network has been funded for the period 2018-2019 and the first meeting in this network will be in Copenhagen.