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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

The impact of drought on northern European pre-industrial agriculture

Skoglund, Martin K.


Drought has been hypothesized to be the main agrometeorological threat facing farmers in Scania (southern Sweden) before the 20th century. However, drought is a little-studied phenomenon in Scandinavian historiography. This article attempts to establish a chronology of extreme agricultural droughts, as well as their impacts on crop harvests and grain prices across Scania during the years 1614-1914, using a combination of statistical methods. Drought years significantly reduced crop harvests in nearly all analyzed samples. However, winter crops appeared more resilient when considering the years following a drought, as these crops experienced a large and significant rebound effect. Spring and fodder crops suffered losses in drought years and did not exhibit any clear rebound in subsequent years. For some spring crops, like barley, harvest losses showed signs of persistence into the years following a drought. There were significant increases in grain prices during drought years. Farms more specialized in grain production suffered similar losses as more diversified farms but were able to recover losses to a greater extent in the year following a drought, thus appearing to have been less vulnerable to droughts than more diversified farms, especially if they were able to capitalize on the grain price hikes that occurred during most drought years. Even though droughts remain one of the most prominent threats to agriculture in the region, the vulnerability to drought in winter rye and winter wheat appears to have been reduced throughout Scania in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


agricultural drought; agrometeorology; drought; resilience; Scania; superposed epoch analysis; tithes; vulnerability; yield ratios

Published in

2024, Volume: 34, number: 1, pages: 120-135

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Agricultural Science

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