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Box 5.5 Adaptation to water scarcity and drought in the agricultural sector

In many European countries and particularly in the south, agricultural water use represents the highest sectoral abstraction of water. The impacts of water scarcity and drought on this sector are felt not only at farm and regional level but, in the case of widespread or longer term droughts, can have international impacts on commodity prices and food security. It is therefore a priority to reduce the impacts of water scarcity and drought episodes on agriculture now and to prepare for potential increases in the frequency and intensity of these events. This is already occurring to some extent in Member States and important advances will have to be made in the next few years. Policies generally concentrate on research and development, education, introduction of more suited crops, efficiency improvements.

Agricultural adaptation options can be divided into autonomous adaptations (such as changes in varieties, sowing dates and fertilizer and pesticide use) and planned adaptations, referring to major structural changes such as land allocation, farming system and the development of new crop varieties (Bindi and Olesen 2010; Moriondo, Giannakopoulos, and Bindi 2010). The most appropriate adaptation strategy is likely to be a combination of these and will depend on the impact to be experienced as well as the particular vulnerability of the system being considered. It is important to take into account the local conditions, including farm intensity, size and type, which are factors that have been found to play an important role in determining vulnerability to climate change in the agricultural sector (Reidsma et al. 2010).

Although relatively simple and non-cost adaptation options may be easily implemented to tackle the expected change, others will have to be evaluated for cost and feasibility and impacts; in some cases, certain cultivations or agricultural activities may become unviable.

Source: Reidsma et al. 2010; Falloon and Betts 2010; Moriondo, Giannakopoulos, and Bindi 2010; Bindi and Olesen 2010

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