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Translating large-scale climate variability into crop production forecast in Europe

Studies show that climate variability drives interannual changes in meteorological variables in Europe, which directly or indirectly impacts crop production. However, there is no climate-based decision model that uses indices of atmospheric oscillation to predict agricultural production risks in Europe on multiple time-scales during the cropping season. We used Fast-and-Frugal trees to predict sugar beet production, applying five large-scale indices of atmospheric oscillation: El Niño Southern Oscillation, North Atlantic Oscillation, Scandinavian Pattern, East Atlantic Pattern, and East Atlantic/West Russian pattern. We found that Fast-and-Frugal trees predicted high/low sugar beet production events in 77% of the investigated regions, corresponding to 81% of total European sugar beet production. For nearly half of these regions, high/low production could be predicted six or five months before the start of the sugar beet harvesting season, which represents approximately 44% of the mean annual sugar beet produced in all investigated areas. Providing early warning of crop production shortages/excess allows decision makers to prepare in advance. Therefore, the use of the indices of climate variability to forecast crop production is a promising tool to strengthen European agricultural climate resilience.