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Solutions for sustainable agri-food systems under climate change and globalisation

A grand challenge facing society in the coming decades is to feed the growing human population in a sustainable and healthy manner. This challenge is central to many of the United Nations Sustainable Development goals (SDGs), including the zero hunger goal but also those for human health, water, terrestrial biodiversity and sustainable production and consumption.
This problem is made more complex by an increasingly globalised food system and its interactions with a changing climate. Agri-food system actors - including policy makers, corporations, farmers, and consumers - must meet this challenge while considering potentially conflicting priorities, such as environmental sustainability (e.g., minimising disturbance to ecosystems via greenhouse gas emissions and the use of water, land, fertilisers and other inputs), economic viability (e.g., revenues for food producers and guaranteed access for consumers), nutritional balance and quality (e.g., addressing overconsumption and undernourishment), and resilience to climate change.
This growing complexity of agri-food systems, which can involve global supply chains and difficult environmental and societal tradeoffs, needs to be better understood.
The type of product (e.g. plant or meat based, fresh or processed), as well as the location and method of production, can play an important role in improving the nutritional quality and environmental sustainability of global food production, to enable healthy and sustainable diets. Quantifying and assessing these multiple outcomes while accounting for the linkages, interconnections, and scales of local and global supply chains will be essential for informing decisions aimed at developing sustainable and resilient agri-food systems.
This session welcomes submissions that quantify and assess a range of outcomes from agri-food systems across multiple spatial and temporal scales, and the trade-offs or synergies between them. The session will include studies providing improved methods for quantifying multiple environmental, economic or social dimensions, studies that incorporate the role of food trade into solution-development, and studies that seek to achieve multiple sustainability goals together.

Co-organized by SSS9
Convener: Carole Dalin | Co-conveners: Matti Kummu, Tuninetti MartaECSECS, Landon MarstonECSECS, Kyle Frankel Davis

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Mon, 26 Apr, 09:00–10:30

Chairpersons: Carole Dalin, Tuninetti Marta, Matti Kummu

5-minute convener introduction

Wendi Wang et al.

One of the most important tasks for humans in the 21st century is to ensure food security in the face of water scarcity. Steep-slope cultivated landscapes are widely distributed and feed more than 10% people in the world. They play an important role in Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set in the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit which aimed to thoroughly solve the food problems in a sustainable way. In addition, more than 49 steep-slope cultivated landscapes are recognised and protected by UNESCO and FAO for their cultural and agronomic importance. It is necessary to find appropriate solutions towards climate-resilient water resources management and save more water for other ecosystems or human activities.

Climate change-induced drought and high intensity rainstorms are global challenges for water resources management in agricultural landscapes. Growing aridity and extreme rainfall are particularly exacerbating the problem of water scarcity in steep slope cultivated landscapes. Though a number of studies have shown the potential impact of climate change on agricultural systems, little is known about role of water resource management (water storages, water harvest, drainage systems, etc.) in the mitigation of these climate impacts to ensure sustainable farming in steep slope agricultural landscapes. The aim of our work is to analyse the threats and challenges of steep-slope agriculture due to climate change and provide examples of resilient water management and agricultural practices in these landscapes. In detail, the aims are to better understand and compare how shifting climatic zones particularly affect steep cultivated landscapes and to find a feasible way for water storage to sustain ecosystem service and agricultural cultivation on hillslope in long periods of drought. GIS-based techniques were employed to determine the global distribution of steep agricultural landscapes, and to quantify the fraction of these that are facing future aridity. Finally, key examples of best practices in sustainable water resource management around the world are discussed, providing a guideline for improving the resilience of steep cultivation systems in future climatic conditions.

How to cite: Wang, W., Pijl, A., and Tarolli, P.: Steep-slope cultivated landscapes: towards climate-resilient water resources management, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-2358,, 2021.

Roshan Adhikari et al.

Expansion of irrigated agriculture is central to efforts to enhance food security, reduce rural poverty, and increase resilience to climate change across Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). A broad variety of irrigation system typologies currently exist in SSA, ranging from ‘formal’ publically-financed surface water irrigation systems served by engineered infrastructure (e.g. dams and canals) to ‘informal’ farmer-led irrigation systems that receive little official support or recognition (e.g. private groundwater pumping and small-scale river diversions). Yet, at present, there is little objective or reliable information about the about the differences in agricultural productivity and livelihood outcomes resulting from these alternative approaches to irrigation developments in SSA, limiting capacity to design effectively new irrigation investments and evaluate reliably current and future trade-offs with other water uses (e.g. hydropower). Understanding the comparative performance of alternative existing approaches to irrigation development, along with the extent to which formal and informal systems complement or substitute one another, offers a valuable opportunity to generate new insights about best practice approaches for irrigation expansion. This paper seeks to address this challenge by exploring how alternative bio-physical, socio-economic, and institutional characteristics of irrigation developments influence welfare outcomes for smallholders.

Our analysis uses primary household panel data (n=646) collected in 2018 and 2019 from Upper East Ghana evaluate the characteristics of irrigation typologies and impacts on agricultural productivity. As a basis for our empirical analysis, we analyse the drivers of productivity differences across farmers in different irrigation typologies. We use descriptive statistics from the survey data to make inferences on heterogeneity of irrigation access across farmer groups. We then use a subset of the sample - limited to the main crops, paddy rice in the rainy season and pepper in the dry season- to analyse the differences in crop yields across farmer groups. To assess whether irrigation access and behaviour affects agricultural production and technical efficiency, we decompose the effects of agricultural inputs - including irrigation - and technical efficiency on crop yields.

Our preliminary findings demonstrate that farmers in formal irrigation schemes have higher yields, technical efficiency of agricultural production and lower costs compared to farmers in informal schemes across both growing seasons. We also find that farmers in formal schemes enjoy a broad range of benefits (for e.g., subsidised fertilizers and higher prices for their produce), which go beyond direct benefits from reliable and inexpensive water access. As a result, these farmers have lower agricultural costs, higher production and better welfare outcomes. These findings highlight the need for broadening public support for irrigators outside the government managed irrigation schemes, who are often neglected in official irrigation development narratives. Fertilizer subsidies, proper channels to sell agricultural output and proper maintenance of existing infrastructure outside formal schemes present opportunities to increase the efficiency and agricultural productivity of farmers in informal schemes.

How to cite: Adhikari, R., Foster, T., Dimova, R., Redicker, S., and Higginbottom, T.: Alternative Models of irrigation development in Ghana, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-15252,, 2021.

Sara Bonetti et al.

South Africa is a water scarce country, with 98% of available water resources already allocated. In addition, only 12% of the land is considered suitable for growing rainfed crops, making commercial agriculture production heavily dependent on irrigation. Current climate projections suggest that South Africa will experience increased frequency of drought events over the next century. This will have notable implications for food security, especially in rural communities that still depend on rainfed production for their livelihoods. In this work, we evaluate water sustainability for seventeen major crops produced in South Africa under current climatic and management conditions as well as under future climate scenarios. We map the spatial distribution of source- and crop-specific water use, and asses their sustainability in terms of water debt repayment time (i.e., the time needed to renew water resources used for annual crop production). We find high water debts in the Western and Eastern Cape regions, revealing unsustainable production due to irrigation in arid areas. Results from climate change scenarios suggest an intensification of such pressure on water resources and allow us to identify crop types and locations where production is likely to be more (or less) sustainable under future climatic conditions, a key step to informing land use planning decisions.

How to cite: Bonetti, S., Mabhaudhi, T., Slotow, R., and Dalin, C.: Water sustainability of South African crop production under current and future climatic conditions, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-1659,, 2021.

Timothy Foster et al.

Groundwater irrigation has played a critical role in the Green Revolution in South Asia, helping to increase crop yields and improve livelihoods of millions of rural households. However, the spread of irrigation has not been homogeneous, with many farmers in the Eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains (EIGP – Nepal Terai and parts of eastern India) still lacking reliable and affordable irrigation access. As a result, agricultural productivity in the EIGP is some of the lowest found across South Asia, with many farmers trapped in chronic cycles of poverty and food insecurity.

A major focus of government and donor efforts to support intensification of groundwater irrigation in the EIGP has been the replacement of existing diesel-based pumping systems with alternative electric or solar powered pumping technologies. These technologies are viewed as being cheaper for to operate and less environmentally damaging due to their lower operational carbon emissions. However, scaling these technologies in practice has proved challenging due to their high upfront capital costs and the unique socio-technical constraints posed by farming systems in the EIGP (e.g., land fragmentation and poorly developed supply chains).

In response to these challenges, our research explores whether opportunities exist to make existing diesel pump systems more cost effective for farmers to support adaptation to climate change and reduce poverty. In particular, we seek to identify what factors lead to disparities in groundwater access costs for irrigation, how these disparities affect farmers’ water use behavior, and in turn how this impacts agricultural production outcomes. Our work draws on evidence from a recent survey of over 400 farmer households in the Nepal Terai, along with detailed in-situ testing and analysis of the fuel efficiency and cost-effectiveness of over 100 diesel pumpsets in the same region conducted between 2019-20.

Our results demonstrate that substantial variability exists in the costs of diesel pump irrigation in the EIGP and that higher costs of groundwater access are associated with lower levels of agricultural productivity and household income. Dependence on expensive pumpset rental markets, in particular amongst credit constrained households, is a major driver of the highest irrigation access costs. Additionally, many farmers also continue to operate and invest in pumpset models and designs that are significantly oversized for local hydrological conditions, resulting in fuel inefficiencies and excess costs that reduce the overall profitability of irrigation water use.

Our findings have important implications for national and regional policy debates about sustainable intensification of irrigated agriculture in the EIGP and other regions. We suggest that intensification of water use and improvements in agricultural productivity can be achieved in the near-term without need for radical technology changes. Targeted credit support, combined with data-driven advisories and improved supply chains for maintenance services and spare parts, could incentivize and enable adoption of low-cost fuel-efficient diesel pumpsets resulting in substantial reductions in costs of irrigation for many farmers. This would have positive near-term impacts on agricultural productivity and rural livelihoods, supporting adaptation to climate change and future transitions to alternative low-carbon irrigation technologies in the region.

How to cite: Foster, T., Adhikari, R., Adhikari, S., Justice, S., Urfels, A., and Krupnik, T.: Sustainable intensification of groundwater irrigation in the Eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-11580,, 2021.

Mark jwaideh and Carole Dalin

Due to increased demand for food, feed, fibre and fuels, intensive resource-use for crop production causes depletion of finite natural resources imperils ecosystems’ integrity. Environmental sustainability is a major global challenge, as identified by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which indicate environmental protection, and higher food production (to end hunger and achieve food security and nutrition), as key goals. As such, the need to measure the environmental sustainability of agriculture globally is imperative to aid decision making for long term, multidisciplinary policy and research programs.

Composite indicators are popular tools to assess environmental performance due to their operational relevance in policy-making. However, the reliability of a composite indicator heavily depends not only on the meaningfulness and accuracy of the indicators embedded within, but also on the underlying methods used to construct the composite indicator. This research takes advantage of new spatially-explicit estimates of environmental impacts of global agriculture due to the use of fertiliser, water, land-use and emissions of greenhouse gases to build an integrated environmental sustainability indicator. Different constructions of a meaningful composite indicator are formed and assessed for their sensitivity to varying biophysical and resource input factors.

The tool will be used to analyse hotspots for environmental impacts and resource intensities, providing the initial analysis to aid institutions and governments at the strategic level to compare their level of sustainability, thus encouraging improvement of standards/ranking against other regions and implement drivers for behaviour and change. The study opens the opportunity to provide sustainable food production frameworks globally, group regions and analysis trade-offs/synergies between environmental impacts. Furthermore, by using emerging environmental datasets, this work generates new knowledge and understanding of globally significant environmental processes and profile these policy relevant insights; a process that is increasingly important for global agendas such as the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

How to cite: jwaideh, M. and Dalin, C.: Development of an integrated indicator to assess the multi-dimensional global environmental impact of crop production., EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-11234,, 2021.

Giorgio Vacchiano et al.

Forests make over 30% of global land and perform functions of vital importance for the well-being of humans on Earth. Yet, forest cover is declining due to deforestation  that mainly affect tropical biomes, due to land use changes for agricultural, mining, and urban use to satisfy growing global demands. Globalization of markets and development have in fact raised the pressure on environmental resources by humans, and at least 30% of global deforestation is linked to the production of exported goods. 
We propose here a method to quantify the impact of global trade on forest cover, by assessing the deforestation embodied in the production, trade, and consumption of  forest-risk agricultural products and by-products. from 2000 to 2020. We provide the first estimate of a country-based deforestation footprint, an indicator of the pressure on forest cover by countries that consume goods produced on land previously occupied by forests.
This is a first attempt to systematically and critically address the issue taking into account responsibilities of both exporting and importing countries. Our methods and first assessment can support domestic and international policies aiming at reducing  deforestation through a correct assessment of a country's impact on global forests and their services. 

How to cite: Vacchiano, G., Lahoz, M. G., Ventrice, A., and Bagliani, M.: A global deforestation footprint from production and consumption of primary goods , EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-15932,, 2021.

Sara Minoli et al.

Broad evidence is pointing at possible adverse impacts of climate change on crop yields. Due to scarce information about farming management practices, most global-scale studies, however, do not consider adaptation strategies.

Here we integrate models of farmers' decision making with crop biophysical modeling at the global scale to investigate how accounting for adaptation of crop phenology affects projections of future crop productivity under climate change. Farmers in each simulation unit are assumed to adapt crop growing periods by continuously selecting sowing dates and cultivars that match climatic conditions best. We compare counterfactual management scenarios, assuming crop calendars and cultivars to be either the same as in the reference climate – as often assumed in previous climate impact assessments – or adapted to future climate.

Based on crop model simulations, we find that the implementation of adapted growing periods can substantially increase (+15%) total crop production in 2080-2099 (RCP6.0). In general, summer crops are responsive to both sowing and harvest date adjustments, which result in overall longer growing periods and improved yields, compared to production systems without adaptation of growing periods. Winter wheat presents challenges in adapting to a warming climate and requires region-specific adjustments to pre and post winter conditions. We present a systematic evaluation of how local and climate-scenario specific adaptation strategies can enhance global crop productivity on current cropland. Our findings highlight the importance of further research on the readiness of required crop varieties.

How to cite: Minoli, S., Jägermeyr, J., Asseng, S., and Müller, C.: Future global crop production increases by adapting crop phenology to local climate change, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-12758,, 2021.

Ulysse Gaudaré et al.

While the agricultural sector is responsible for 20-30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, agricultural lands may also represent an opportunity to mitigate climate change through soil carbon sequestration. In particular, organic farming is often presented as a way of farming that leads to increased soil carbon sequestration in croplands thanks to high soil carbon inputs, especially as animal manure (Skinner et al. 2013, Gattinger et al. 2012).

However, organic farming represents only ~1.4% of the global utilised agricultural area (UAA). In a world where organic farming would expand far above (e.g. up to 100% of the UAA), we expect stringent competition for fertilising materials and therefore, a reduction of organic yields beyond the current organic-to-conventional gap of ~20% (Seufert et al. 2012). Such yield reduction might impact the amount of carbon that returns to soil in form of crop roots and residues and, in fine, the soil organic carbon sequestration of organically managed croplands. The objective of the present study is to estimate to what extent soil carbon sequestration might be affected by organic farming expansion at the global scale.

To answer this question, we combined (i) the GOANIM model that estimates material and nutrient flows in the crop and livestock farming systems under different global scenarios of organic farming expansion and (ii) the RothC model that simulates soil carbon dynamics in agricultural soils. We combined those models with a series of global scenarios representing organic farming expansion together with a baseline simulating conventional – i.e. non-organic – farming systems and soil carbon inputs.

We found that organic farming expansion would negatively affect croplands’ SOC stocks at the global scale. We found a reduction of per-hectare soil carbon input in croplands of up to 40-60%. This is due to lower yields in an organic scenario because of nitrogen limitation (up to 60% lower than conventional), reducing the amount of crop residues returning to cropland. Another impact of lower yield is a reduction of feed availability and subsequently a reduction of animal population and manure spread to soil. This reduction of carbon input is lower if farming practices are adapted to foster biomass production and carbon inputs in soils (i.e. cover crops). Such results highlight the need of systemic approaches when estimating the mitigation potential of alternative farming systems.



Gattinger, A. et al. (2012) ‘Enhanced top soil carbon stocks under organic farming’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(44), pp. 18226–18231. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1209429109.

Skinner, C. et al. (2014) ‘Greenhouse gas fluxes from agricultural soils under organic and non-organic management - A global meta-analysis’, Science of the Total Environment, 468–469, pp. 553–563. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.08.098.

Seufert, V., Ramankutty, N. and Foley, J. A. (2012) ‘Comparing the yields of organic and conventional agriculture’, Nature, 485(7397), pp. 229–232. doi: 10.1038/nature11069.

Connor, D. J. (2008) ‘Organic agriculture cannot feed the world’, Field Crops Research, 106(2), pp. 187–190. doi: 10.1016/j.fcr.2007.11.010.

How to cite: Gaudaré, U., Kuhnert, M., Smith, P., Martin, M., Barbieri, P., Pellerin, S., and Nesme, T.: Can an organically farmed world help to mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration?, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-15233,, 2021.

Malve Heinz et al.

Rising temperatures, shifts in precipitation patterns and longer dry periods provoke a need for better adapted crops in Switzerland to maintain agricultural productivity in the long term. The aim of this work was to identify plants with a high climatic suitability in the future. A simple mechanistic model (ecocrop) was applied to determine suitability for different time periods under RCP scenarios 4.5 and 8.5. The model considers temperature and precipitation ranges. From a pool of 600 edible plants, 21 plants were identified that would benefit from progressing climate change in terms of average climatic yield potentials. In addition, these plants were found to have a high nutritional quality and could thus be seen as good candidate crops to expand the portfolio of cultivated crops in Switzerland in efforts to adapt to climate change and maintain or even increase food productivity in a future climate. The potentials of selected crops are discussed in terms of cultivation requirements, spatial suitability, and market potentials.

How to cite: Heinz, M., Romppainen-Martius, O., and Holzkämper, A.: Alternative crops for a changing climate in Switzerland, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-14699,, 2021.

José M. Cabezas et al.

Olive is a woody crop extended over 10 Mha around the world (FAOSTAT, 2019), being Spain the country with the largest area (2.7 Mha). Andalusia is located in the South of Spain, with 1.6 Mha cultivated with olive trees, most of them (around 90%) dedicated to olive oil production (MAPA, 2020). This region is characterized by a great diversity of weather conditions. This diversity greatly affects important agronomic parameters of olive as the pattern of oil accumulation. This influence is different depending on the cultivar considered. In addition, this pattern of oil accumulation is a key aspect since is the most relevant trait determining the optimal harvest time. For that reason, in the present study, the relative influence of cultivar and environment, and their interaction, have been evaluated for the full pattern of oil accumulation.

This study was carried out in four locations of Andalusia covering a wide range of weather conditions, and where olive trees are well established or under expansion: Antequera (Málaga), Córdoba, Úbeda (Jaén) and Gibraleón (Huelva). In 2008, five cultivars were planted in a randomized complete block design consisting in four blocks and four trees per elementary plot: Arbequina, Hojiblanca, Koroneiki, Picual and Sikitita-3 (a new registered cultivar from the olive breeding program developed by the University of Córdoba and IFAPA). The first two locations were monitored in 2018 and 2020 while the other two locations were monitored only during 2020 campaign. Fruits samples were collected periodically, starting 4 weeks after full bloom until the oil accumulation was finished. Then, in the laboratory, fruits’ oil content was measured by nuclear magnetic resonance.

Results show sigmoid patterns regarding fruit oil accumulation and dry basis along each campaign in all genotypes, locations and years. There were significant differences of maximum olive oil accumulation among genotypes, recording the genotype Sikitita-3 the maximum ones. Furthermore, a significant genotype-environment interaction was also found for these. These results have relevant consequences regarding the selection of the optimal harvest time, to accomplish a desired balance between maximum oil accumulation and quality indicators which require early harvest dates.



FAOSTAT, 2019. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. FAOSTAT database available at Last accessed 12 January 2020.

MAPA, 2020. Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Survey of surfaces and crop yields 2020 available at Last accessed 12 January 2020.

How to cite: Cabezas, J. M., Muñoz, E., De la Rosa, R., León, L., and Lorite, I. J.: Determinant factors in olive oil accumulation for optimizing harvest time in a context of climate change, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-14278,, 2021.

Elena De Petrillo et al.

Through the international trade of agricultural goods, water resources that are physically used in the country of production are virtually transferred to the country of consumption. Food trade leads to a global redistribution of freshwater resources, thus shaping distant interdependencies among countries. Recent studies have shown how agricultural trade drives an outsourcing of environmental impacts pertaining to depletion and pollution of freshwater resources, and eutrophication of river bodies in distant producer countries. What is less clear is how the final consumer – being an individual, a company, or a community- impacts the water resources of producer countries at a subnational scale. Indeed, the variability of sub-national water footprint (WF in m3/tonne) due to climate, soil properties, irrigation practices, and fertilizer inputs is generally lost in trade analyses, as most trade data are only available at the country scale. The latest version of the Spatially Explicit Information on Production to Consumption Systems model  (SEI-PCS) by Trase provides detailed data on single trade flows (in tonne) along the crop supply chain: from local municipalities- to exporter companies- to importer companies – to the final consumer countries. These data allow us to capitalize on the high-resolution data of agricultural WF available in the literature, in order to quantify the sub-national virtual water flows behind food trade. As a first step, we assess the detailed soybean trade between Brazil and Italy. This assessment is relevant for water management because the global soybean flow reaching Italy may be traced back to 374 municipalities with heterogeneous agricultural practises and water use efficiency. Results show that the largest flow of virtual water from a Brazilian municipality to Italy -3.52e+07 m3 (3% of the total export flow)- comes from Sorriso in the State of Mato Grosso. Conversely, the highest flow of blue water -1.56e+05 m3- comes from Jaguarão, in the State of Rio Grande do Sul, located in the Brazilian Pampa. Further, the analysis at the company scale reveals that as many as 37 exporting companies can be identified exchanging to Italy;  Bianchini S.A is the largest virtual water trader (1.88 e+08 m3 of green water and 3,92 e+06 m3 of blue water), followed by COFCO (1,06 e+08 m3 of green water and 6.62 m3 of blue water)  and Cargill ( 6.96 e+07 m3 of green water and 2.80 e+02 m3 of blue water). By building the bipartite network of importing companies and municipalities originating the fluxes we are able to efficiently disaggregate the supply chains , providing novel tools to build sustainable water management strategies.

How to cite: De Petrillo, E., Tuninetti, M., and Laio, F.: A step forward toward the high-resolution assessment of virtual water flows at the company’s scale, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-14900,, 2021.

Benedetta Falsetti et al.

Given the importance of food imports for food security and the role of exports in income generation, food trade is an indispensable component of most countries’ development strategies. Global and regional agreements set the rules for trade policies between countries. In this context, we investigate the impact of trade agreements on the trade network of agricultural products. We study whether the ratification of agricultural-oriented trade agreements has an influence on the topology of the cereal trade network (link establishment) and the variation of flows through existing links.

Our analysis differs from previous studies for three main reasons. Firstly, it is a data-driven analysis, based on a dataset that combines the trade agreement structure provided by the World Bank and cereal trade flow data from FAOSTAT. Secondly, the analysis focuses on a global scale, considering data for all countries where information is available. Finally, we carried out the analysis at the level of aggregated cereals, both from a monetary (US$) and diet-based (Kcal) perspective, over the period from 1993 to 2015. This time interval includes the most important recent reforms in the agricultural sector.

The results show that a new trade agreement between two countries increases the probability of activating a grain trade link by 7.3% in the year after the agreement is ratified. In the case where trade agreements are not considered, the probability of triggering a new link between two countries drops to 1.3%.

Regarding the volume of flows, we classify variations into three categories: flow decrease (negative variation of the flux), mild increase (<50% increase in the flow intensity), and sharp increase (>50% increase).

The results obtained, both in economic value (US$) and in quantitative variations (Kcal), show that the entry force of a trade agreement has two main effects: in flows covered by trade agreements, there is a significant increase in the percentage of flows experiencing a sharp increase, and a reduction of the percentage of flows experiencing a negative variation. 

We, therefore, provide here global-scale, data-based evidence. Previous results suggest that trade agreements are facilitators of the connections between different countries and, therefore, facilitators in terms of global food trade accessibility.  This work aims to be a first attempt to investigate the impacts of international agreements simultaneously on the topology of the agricultural product trade network, and on the increase of existing link flows. Our intention is to dedicate further analysis about which trade agreements perform better, increasing the traded volume, to explore the role of trade liberalization at a worldwide level.


How to cite: Falsetti, B., Ridolfi, L., and Laio, F.: Do trade agreements activate new links and increase flows? A data-driven analysis of the global cereal market., EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-14664,, 2021.

Katharina Waha et al.

Diversity and diversification in agricultural systems are often presented in the literature as having multiple benefits such as enhancing resilience, increasing food production and decreasing risks in production systems and is often postulated to benefit food and nutrition security in low- and middle-income countries. Our study aims to provide an overview of the potential for agricultural diversification to improve food security status as reported in recently published research articles analysing the diversity-food security relationship. We consider results for different scales, from individual to global and for different food security dimensions: availability, access, stability and utilisation.

We carried out a literature review that includes exhaustive, comprehensive searching. We search for peer-reviewed publications in the Web of Science core collection (v.5.32) written in English, between 2010 and February 2020 on the association between diversity in agricultural systems and at least one dimension or measure of food security. From the original list of articles we exclude all publications that (1) focus on a study area outside a low- to middle income country; (2) do not include at least one metric of farm-, regional-, or global-level diversity as specified with the search terms; (3) do not explicitly measure at least one food security dimension, or (4) were exclusively focussed on describing drivers and trends in diversity or food security.

We find that a total number of 87 research articles assessed a total of 328 diversity-food security relationships using one or more statistical modelling approach. About half of them are positive (54%) and mostly refer to the diversity-food access relationship on the individual, household and farm scale as this was the food security dimension and spatial scale most analysed. Of all results for food access 60% were positive relationships and only 4% were negative relationships with the remainder having no or ambiguous relationships. Twenty-nine studies used household dietary diversity as a measure of food access and 10 studies used at least one food access indicator that is a validated proxy for nutrient adequacy. Positive relationships were more often reported for food availability (65%) than for food utilisation (33%) also because for food utilisation there are a lot of mixed findings for different measures of anthropometric and nutritional status. The most common spatial scale assessed was the household and farm scale (58%).

There is no food security dimension that primarily has a negative relationship with agricultural diversity but there is a considerable number of relationships that are found to be neutral or ambiguous. Diversity can be an important driver of food security, but the magnitude of the contribution depends on the  socio-economic and biophysical characteristics of the local farming system. We conclude that farmers mostly see diversification as a potential strategy to improve livelihoods, agricultural production and/or food and nutrition security where other strategies are more expensive but not as a desirable characteristic of the agricultural systems at all costs especially in the presence of other strategies that can achieve the same outcome.

How to cite: Waha, K., Accatino, F., Godde, C., Rigolot, C., Bogard, J., Domingues, J. P., Gotor, E., Martin, G., Mason D'Croz, D., Tacconi, F., van Wijk, M., and Herrero, M.: Agricultural diversification and food security in low- and middle-income countries: Where is the evidence?, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-6748,, 2021.

Francesco Tacconi et al.

Enhancing and maintaining on-farm diversity represent a potential strategy to improve farming systems sustainability, by reducing the pressure on the natural environment, alleviating farmers' risks and vulnerabilities, and increasing farms resilience. However, farms are complex systems and on-farm diversification, intended as the production of multiple crop, trees and/or livestock species, is not a panacea and it is driven or constrained by different factors and dynamics that vary across environmental, socio-economic and political contexts.

We argue that identifying indicators that reflect these drivers, constraints and contexts at farm scale is crucial to create favourable conditions for the farmers to increase on-farm diversity where doing so is likely to be beneficial. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to identify and clarify some of the patterns behind the process that lead farmers to adopt farm diversification strategies in order to understand where investments and interventions to support diversification are likely to be appropriate and effective, and how they should be targeted.

In this review, we analysed 97 articles, selected from the screening of 2,312 articles retrieved from Web of Science and Scopus, and published in English in peer-reviewed journals since 2010. Our selection criteria required that the articles focused on the analysis of drivers and constraints of agricultural diversification, intended as crops and/or livestock systems, agrobiodiversity and agroforestry systems, at farm and household scale.

From the selected studies, we identified and extracted a total of 239 different variables that were statistically assessed as potential drivers and constraints of farm diversity at farm scale. For each of the variables we counted the times they resulted as positive, negative and statistically significant, or not statistically significant. To present and discuss the results, we followed the Sustainable Rural Livelihood Framework, classifying the extracted variables as external (agroecological context, the political and institutional context, and exposure to environmental and market risks and shocks) and internal factors (human, economic/financial, socio-cultural and physical capitals), or other livelihood options (i.e. off-farm income).

Our findings show that the decision to maintain or increase on-farm diversification is a common strategy to cope with environmental and market risks, but that it is often alternative and negatively correlated to the adoption of off-farm livelihood. Overall, the drivers and constraints of diversification were highly context-dependent and contingent. For some relevant variables, such as farm size, household head's age, rainfall level and education, we also found some evidence of the presence of non-linear (e.g. inverted-U) relationships.

These results enforce the hypothesis of the complexity of land uses decision and the importance of understanding farms’ and farmers’ characteristics, and their local and wider context when it comes to design policies and research projects for sustainable rural development.

How to cite: Tacconi, F., Waha, K., Ojeda, J., and Leith, P.: Enhancing on-farm diversity: drivers and constraints. A review., EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-13736,, 2021.

Fengjian Ge et al.
With the rapid development of urbanization in China, urban circles and urban agglomerations are gradually formed among different cities, which in turn has brought large pressure to the ecological environment. As an important monitoring index for evaluating the sustainable development of cities, quantified evaluation on the eosystem health is lacked for urban agglomerations. In this study, ecosystem health was assessed based on the framework of ecosystem vigor, organization, resilience, and services (VORS) in the Middle Reaches of the Yangtze River Urban Agglomerations (MRYRUA) in 2000, 2005, 2010, and 2015 with county as research units. Using GeoDetector to quantitatively analyze the impact of seven factors (including the proportion of construction land, forest land, and water, land use degree, population, average annual precipitation, and digital elevation model (DEM)) on ecosystem health in different periods. The results showed that: (1) There were significant differences in the spatial distribution of ecosystem health. The ecosystem health in the central area of Wuhan Metropolis, Changsha-Zhuzhou-Xiangtan City Group, and Poyang Lake City Group were significantly lower than the surrounding areas; (2) From the time scale, the research units of ordinary well level gradually develop to relatively well and well levels. The research units of relatively weak and weak level remain relatively stable. (3) Land use degree was the main factor affecting on ecosystem health. Moreover, there were interactions between different factors affecting. The impact of factors on ecosystem health were bi-enhanced or nonlinear enhanced. (4) The impacts of the proportion of construction land on ecosystem health had become greater over the time, and risen from fourth in 2000 to second in 2015. Therefore, a reasonable layout of urban land use planning has an important impact on the ecosystem health.

How to cite: Ge, F., Li, J., Chen, W., Ouyang, S., Han, P., and Ye, S.: Identifying key determinants of ecosystem health in the middle reaches of Yangtze River Urban Agglomerations, China, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-86,, 2020.

Stéphanie Zimmer et al.

Soybeans (Glycine max (L) Merr.) are an important protein source in animal feed. In Luxembourg, 100% of soybeans are imported and soybean feed consumption is unknown. This study aims to calculate the Luxembourgish soybean needs for 2018 for its predominant livestock (cattle, poultry, pigs) in conventional and organic agriculture, respectively, and to assess the reduction potential of soybeans.

Luxembourg has an agricultural area of 131,844 ha of which 51.4% is grassland and 47.3% is arable land. In 2018, 5.4% of the farms and 4.4% of the agricultural area were managed organically. Livestock data in 2018 indicates that 196,093 suckler and dairy cows are being raised in Luxembourg, whereof 4,050 are organic. Pigs add up to 91,745 (organic: 892) and poultry to 123,502 animals (organic: 31,318).

Soybean feed consumption was calculated per animal and year using two different approaches: SoyaMax is based on common feeding rations and SoyaMin represents a minimized soybean use in feeding rations. SoyaMin equals the potential for soybean reduction in Luxembourg. Based on the crude protein need of monogastric animals and ruminants, the consumption of soybean extraction meal is calculated for each animal category.

For rearing piglets, a SoyaMax of 46.2 kg is calculated and for fattening pigs SoyaMax is 99.4 kg (SoyaMin: 55.3 kg). For sows SoyaMax is 134.0 kg (SoyaMin: 68.5 kg). In organic pig production SoyaMax equals SoyaMin for all pig categories and is 56.0 kg.

For laying hens SoyaMax results in 10.2 kg (SoyaMin: 5.6 kg), whereas in organic agriculture SoyaMax is 9.3 kg (SoyaMin: 5.6 kg). Broilers are fed with a SoyaMax of 12.5 kg which also equals SoyaMin. In organic broiler production SoyaMax equals SoyaMin and is 6.9 kg.

SoyaMax for milk cows is based on different feed rations with various proportions of grass and maize silage, resulting soya extraction meal (SEM) for energy compensation and a protein surplus of 1.5 kg. SoyaMax in conventional agriculture is 287.0 kg (SoyaMin: 207.0 kg). In organic dairy production feeding in winter contains soybean, whereas feeding in summer is soybean-free. SoyaMax in organic production is 90.0 kg (SoyaMin: 66.0 kg). Both, conventional and organic suckler cows are not fed with soybean. For cattle less than one year SoyaMax is 49.0 kg (SoyaMin: 0 kg) and for male beef cattle between one and two years, SoyaMax is 219.0 kg (SoyaMin 33.0 kg). No soybean is fed to organic cattle under two years old, and the same is true for conventional and organic heifers and breeding bulls.

In 2018, the calculated national consumption was 27,453 t of SEM. Feeding rations of ruminants accounted for 69%, and organic agriculture accounted for 1.3% of total SEM. Based on SoyaMin, the consumption could be reduced to 15,886 t. Luxembourg has a high potential of using grassland for feeding of dairy cows. Regarding high self-sufficiency with farm-grown fodder, SoyaMin and the lower livestock density in organic compared to conventional agriculture, organic agriculture could act as a role model to lower soybean needs and reach a higher protein-autarky in Luxembourg.

How to cite: Zimmer, S., Keßler, S., Leimbrock-Rosch, L., and Hoffmann, M.: Current soybean feed consumption in Luxembourg and reduction capability, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-5790,, 2021.

Dimitris Papadimitriou et al.

Introducing edible salt-tolerant plant species to professional cultivation is a concept compatible with the need of improving the resilience of food systems to shocks and stresses, which is  required to tackle eminent global challenges, such as water scarcity and climate change (Cuevas et al., 2019). Hydroponic systems can contribute to substantial savings of water, nutrients, and space, while increasing yield and produce quality (Savvas and Gruda, 2018). In the current study, we examined the feasibility of cultivating the wild edible green Scolymus hispanicus L. under moderate levels of salinity in a soilless cultivation system. The experiment was installed in October 2019, in an unheated saddle roof double-span greenhouse, as a completely randomized block design with 4 treatments and 4 blocks per treatment (Papadimitriou et al., 2020). Treatments were formed by supplying a standard nutrient solution (NS) with four NaCl concentrations (0.5, 5.0, 10.0, and 15.0 mM), resulting in electrical conductivities of 2.2, 2.8, 3.2, and 3.8 dS m-1, respectively. Measurements of chlorophyll fluorescence (Fv/Fm) and relative chlorophyll levels (SPAD), which were performed to assess the photosynthetic capacity of leaves, did not indicate any significant differences between the non-salinized control (0.5 mM NaCl) and the salinity treatments (5.0, 10.0, and 15.0 mM NaCl), until 60 days after seedling transplanting (DAT). However, by 90 DAT, salinity levels of 10.0 and 15.0 mM significantly reduced leaf chlorophyll levels, as indicated by the SPAD indices, compared to 5.0 and 0.5 mM NaCl in the supplied NS. Moreover, by 90 DAT, the chlorophyll fluorescence (Fv/Fm) was significantly reduced at the salinity level of 15.0 mM compared to 0.5 and 5.0 mM. Nevertheless, no salinity treatment had a significant impact on leaf fresh weight, root fresh weight, rosette diameter, number of leaves and post-harvest storability in plants harvested 90 and 120 DAT, compared to the control. Based on these results, S. hispanicus L. exhibits a considerable resilience to moderate salinity and can be considered a promising candidate plant for introduction in hydroponic cropping systems.


The research work was supported by the Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (HFRI) under the HFRI PhD Fellowship grant (Fellowship Number: 240).


Cuevas, J., Daliakopoulos, I.N., del Moral, F., Hueso, J.J., Tsanis, I.K., 2019. A Review of Soil-Improving Cropping Systems for Soil Salinization. Agronomy 9, 295.

Papadimitriou, D., Kontaxakis, E., Daliakopoulos, I., Manios, T., Savvas, D., 2020. Effect of N:K Ratio and Electrical Conductivity of Nutrient Solution on Growth and Yield of Hydroponically Grown Golden Thistle (Scolymus hispanicus L.). Proceedings 30, 87.

Savvas, D., Gruda, N., 2018. Application of soilless culture technologies in the modern greenhouse industry - A review. Europ. J. Hort. Sci. 83, 280-293.

How to cite: Papadimitriou, D., Daliakopoulos, I., Manios, T., and Savvas, D.: Salinity tolerance in Scolymus hispanicus L: preliminary findings from a soilless cultivation, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-14357,, 2021.

Maria Heiling et al.

Nitrogen (N) fertilizer management is challenging due to the many factors and have low N use efficiency (NUE). Heavy N losses from soil reduce plant yield and have negative impacts on the environment. Nitrogen processes inhibitors, such as urease and nitrification inhibitors (UI and NI), are chemical compounds which reduce urea hydrolysis and nitrification respectively. By coating ammonium based chemical fertilizers with N process inhibitors allows N to stay in a more stable form of ammonium (NH4+) thus minimising N losses as well as improving NUE and consequently enhancing crop yield.

A field experiment was established at the Soil and Water Management and Crop Nutrition Laboratory (SWMCNL) in Seibersdorf, Austria to determine the effect of different N fertilizers coated with N process inhibitors on maize yield in summer 2020. The field site is characterised by a moderately shallow Chernozem soil with significant gravel content. Three combinations of N fertilizer (urea or NPK) with N process inhibitors (UI and/or NI)) were tested and compared with a control treatment (without N fertilizer) and a urea application without any inhibitor. All treatments received 60 kg ha-1 P2O5 and 146 kg ha-1 K2O. The amount of N added to each treatment receiving N fertilizer was 120 kg N ha-1. The inhibitors used were (i) UI (2-NPT: N-(2-nitrophenyl) phosphoric acid triamide), (ii) NI-1 (MPA: N-[3(5)-methyl-1H-pyrazol-1-yl) methyl] acetamide), and (iii) NI-2 (DMPP: 3,4-dimethylpyrazole phosphate). DMPP, a nitrification inhibitor, was used in combination with NPK fertilizer. A randomized complete block design with four replications was used in this study. Treatments were: T1 (control treatment - without N fertilizer), T2 (Urea only), T3 (Urea + UI), T4 (Urea + UI + NI-1), and T5 (NPK + NI-2). Urea was applied through two split applications in the T2 treatment. In T3, T4, and T5 treatments, N fertilizers were applied only once. Supplemental irrigation was only applied in the early stages of growth, to ensure that the crop could establish. Harvest was carried out at 98 days after planting.

The yield data showed that different fertilizer treatments had a significant (p ≤ 0.01) effect on maize yield (dry matter production). There was no significant difference between treatments 4 and 5, which had the highest yield followed by treatments 2 and 3. The comparison between T2 and T3 showed that the application of a urease inhibitor avoids the need for a split application of urea, which decreases labour costs. Adding NI-1 (under T4) further increases the yield. Also, the package of NPK, a common choice by farmers in Austria, in combination with the nitrification inhibitor NI-2 showed equally good results as urea combined with two inhibitors. Based on the yield results, it can be concluded that N process inhibitors play a significant role in enhancing maize yields.

How to cite: Heiling, M., Shorafa, M., Mirkhani, R., Willems, E., Toloza, A., Resch, C., Heng, L. K., and Dercon, G.: Influence of different nitrogen inhibitors on maize yield, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-9859,, 2021.

Rayehe Mirkhani et al.

Nitrogen (N) is a crop nutrient that is commonly applied as fertilizer, however the dynamic nature of N and its propensity for loss from soil‐plant systems creates a unique and challenging environment for its efficient management. Nitrification inhibitors (NIs) are compounds that can reduce the bacterial oxidation of NH4+ to NO2 by inhibiting the activity of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria and maintaining a higher proportion of applied nitrogen in the soil by preventing nitrate loss from leaching and gaseous N losses from nitrification and denitrification. The organic compound 2-chloro-6-(tri-chloromethyl) pyridine, commonly known as nitrapyrin (NP), is such a nitrification inhibitor that is used in agriculture. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of NI (NP) on winter wheat yield compared to farmers practice without NI at a given N rate and same number of N split applications.

A randomized complete block design in five replications was used in this study. Treatments were: T1 (control treatment - without urea), T2 (farmers practice - 300 kg urea/ha), and T3 (urea+NP - 300 kg urea/ha). Urea was applied in three split applications at tillering, stem elongation and booting stages in treatments T2 (farmers practice) and T3 (urea+NP). The average grain yield of winter wheat was 8.7 t ha-1 for the farmers practice (T2) and 9.1 t ha-1 for the urea+NP treatment (T3) at the same number of split fertilizer applications.

The crop yield data showed that urea applied with NP (T3) did increase only slightly grain yield, as compared to farmers practice (T2). The grain yield increase with NP was about 4%, however the statistical analysis showed that this increase due to the application of urea with NP was not significant. Further research is needed to investigate additional nitrification inhibitors and their effect on wheat production.

How to cite: Mirkhani, R., Ghavami, M. S., Ahmadi, E., and Moghiseh, E.: Influence of nitrification inhibitor (Nitrapyrin) on winter wheat yield , EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-9684,, 2021.

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