Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

Report2015Open access

Effects of extreme weather on yield of major arable crops in Sweden

De Toro, Alfredo; Eckersten, Henrik; Nkurunziza, Libére; Von Rosen, Dietrich


Yield data for a series of years on the main crops grown in Sweden were collected and summarised in order to identify years with extremely low yield, determine their frequency and risk level and relate these to weather data in order to identify weather events leading to large yield reductions. Annual yield data at county level for cereals, field beans, oilseed rape, potatoes and temporary grasses were taken from official statistics for the period 1965-2014. For the period 2005-2012, crop yield data on farm level were also available from official statistics. In addition, yield data for cereals and temporary grasses being studied in long-term experiments (more than 40 years) located in four different agro-ecological zones of Sweden were considered. Daily temperature and precipitation data for each of the 21 counties in Sweden during the period 1961-2012 were downloaded from the official Swedish weather data website. In general, yield reductions were higher in northern than in southern counties and higher for spring cereals than winter cereals. Oats, spring rape and potatoes were the crops with the highest yield variation at county level. The frequency of a 30% yield reduction at county level was very low or close to zero in those counties with widespread cereal production, but large reductions occurred in individual years and certain counties (e.g. -80% in Norrbotten county in 1987). Close agreement between annual area of non-harvested crops and a 30% yield reduction was observed for certain years, crops and counties. The northern counties had on average 4-11% non-harvested crop area, with Norrbotten county having the highest values. The non-harvested area of cereals in southern counties was on average 0-2%. The risk of severe crop losses on farm level was around 10%, although in a few cases the risk was 25%, depending on the county. More specifically, the overall risk among the counties for individual farms of obtaining 30% lower yield for winter wheat was 5-20%, for spring wheat 5-20%, for rye 5-10% and for spring barley 5-25%. The corresponding risk of obtaining 50% lower yield for oats was 5-20%. The yield data for individual farms showed large variations, even in years with ‘favourable’ weather conditions. In most years, yield on the lower 10th percentile of farms was less than half the average yield at county level. Winter wheat showed the lowest variation in southern counties and oats and spring rape the highest. Farm-level yield variations were also much higher in Norrbotten county than in southern counties. This large yield variation was confirmed by data from the long-term crop experiments, in which yield reductions exceeding 30% occurred in 5-18% of years (i.e. 2-8 years in the period 1965-2010). Most years with the lowest yield were associated with a prolonged dry period (<20 mm precipitation over 40 days) and/or a high level of precipitation during the harvesting period (>100 mm during August). However, attempts to correlate county average yields with indices based only on daily temperature and precipitation gave poor and inconsistent results. Similar results were obtained using yield data from the long-term experiments and indices based solely on precipitation. The large yield variations between individual farms, the heterogeneity of crop responses to Scandinavian weather conditions and the limitations of yield prediction models in terms of detailed input data and result accuracy indicate that yield reductions should be measured on farm level. Within the study period, precipitation during summer months appeared to increase over time, particularly in 25% of years in southern Sweden. If this situation persists, it will have conflicting effects on crop production, by reducing the risk of drought periods and increasing the risk of rainy harvesting periods.


extreme weather; arable crops; cereals; Sweden; risk assessment; county precipitation data; county temperature data; county yield data; county crop production

Published in

Rapport (Institutionen för energi och teknik, SLU)
2015, number: 086ISBN: 978-91-576-9323-5Publisher: Department of Energy and Technology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences