EU Science Hub

Causes and implications of the unforeseen 2016 extreme yield loss in the breadbasket of France

In 2016, France, one of the leading wheat-producing and wheat-exporting regions in the world suffered its most extreme yield loss in over half a century. Yet, yield forecasting systems failed to anticipate this event. We show that this unprecedented event is a new type of compound extreme with a conjunction of abnormally warm temperatures in late autumn and wet conditions in the following spring. A binomial logistic regression accounting for fall and spring conditions is able to capture key yield loss events since 1959. Based on climate projections, we show that the conditions that led to the 2016 wheat yield loss will become more frequent in the future. The increased likelihood of such compound extreme events poses a challenge: farming systems and yield forecast systems, which support them, must adapt.