EU Science Hub

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

Abstract: 
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.