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Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way
WEB MAGAZINE - November 2018

Impact of extreme weather on the Nordic Region

In Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, crop yields were 20–50% lower than normal, with financial losses running into the billions.

The impact per country this autumn:

  • Denmark: 30–40% lower crop yields than normal and an economic loss for agriculture of DKK 6.4 billion.
  • Norway: a loss of NOK 5–6 billion, mainly due to a lack of forage crops.
  • Sweden: 25% lower crop yields than normal.
  • Finland: 20–50% lower crop yields than normal
  • Iceland, by contrast, had unusually heavy rainfall during the summer – some 70–80% more than normal in the south of the country. This may have lowered the quality of the forage crops, but they had dried up completely in the other four countries. Norway imported 30,000 bales of hay from Iceland in the summer and was also one of the countries Iceland supplied with hay and silage feed in early autumn.

High probability of more forest fires

The long drought and high temperatures in the rest of the Nordic Region were also responsible for the spread of forest fires in summer 2018. Aeroplanes and helicopters from Norway and Denmark helped put out forest fires in Sweden, along with other countries under the EU civil contingency agreement.

The extreme drought conditions affected the whole of Europe, but data from the European Commission shows that it was particularly hard on Nordic forestry and agriculture.

Climate change increases the likelihood of more extreme hot summers (and more droughts and fires), and the Nordic agriculture ministers held an extraordinary meeting on 19 September to discuss both the acute situation and strategies to improve Nordic resilience.

Contingency plans for seed shortages

“In the short term, it may be a case of working together on contingency plans for forest fires and the shortages of seed and animal feed caused by extreme weather.  In the longer term, this will make agriculture more resilient against climate change,” said Bård Hoksrud, Norwegian Minister of Agriculture and Food.

In the longer term, extreme weather conditions will affect risk profiles, the willingness to invest and interest rates.

Agriculture will have to adapt to a more unstable climate and develop more durable crops that withstand extreme drought or severe rainfall.

The Nordic Gene Bank, NordGen, seeks to preserve and secure a variety of genetic resources for food and agriculture in the Nordic Region.

NordGen can play an important role in this new scenario, e.g. by propagating seed types like grass with deeper roots that can survive prolonged drought. The time may be in for a systematic screening of old plant varieties to contribute to more resilient agricultural crop production in the future.

“NordGen can help Nordic plant breeders take into account the long-term needs of agriculture and forestry, adaptation to climate change, environmental policy objectives and consumer needs,” said Jari Partanen, State Secretary in Finland.

The Nordic ministers decided to set up a task force to analyse the challenges that extreme weather poses to agriculture and forestry.


Photo 1: Pelle Martin / Unsplash

Photo 2: Elizabeth Lies / Unsplash