When Extreme Weather Events Threaten Agriculture and Forestry


Acker mit schlaffen Zuckerrübenpflanzen
Sugar beets showing drought stress (© Michael Welling)

In light of the climate change, many meteorologists fear that extreme weather events such as drought, heatwaves, long term and heavy rains, storms or frost will occur more frequently in the future. This will place enormous challenges on agricultural and forestry enterprises. Other than for the long term impacts of climate change, no reliable research results exist for these regionally strongly varying extreme weather situations.  

In a multiple year joint project of the Thünen Institute with the Julius Kühn Institute (JKI) and the German Weather Service (DWD, Deutscher Wetterdienst) the following is being studied:

  • Is an increase in extreme weather events to be expected
  • Which impact this will have on agriculture and forestry
  • How can farms prepare for this
  • How can policy accompany this process

Assessments of the currently available climate projections from the DWD indicate that the heat days in the vegetation period will increase in the future. This trend has already been seen in the last 50 years, and is accompanied by an increase in the drought periods. In contrast no clear trend can be seen with regard to heavy rain events. However water management measures may increase in importance in the future. On the one hand, a grouping of spring droughts can be seen, and on the other hand, a cumulation of stagnant water problems. An approach to these problems is being addressed by the Center for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) with the Thünen Institute.  

Extreme weather events are very different in various German regions and must be considered differentially in terms of crops. An expert survey carried out by the Rural Areas Service Center in Rhineland Palatinate and the JKI showed that heat, late frost, drought and flooding present great challenges for vegetable and fruit farms, vineyards and hops crops.  

In agriculture and in forests the dangers are somewhat different. Here primarily storms, heatwaves and extreme drought are relevant.

First results were discussed at a workshop at the Thünen Institute in May 2014. In the course of the project the scientists estimated the impact of the extreme weather situations and studied the possibility of risk management for important extreme events. In June 2015 the results were presented at a concluding event in Berlin.

Final report: Thünen Report 30