Recent warming across the North Atlantic region may be contributing to an expansion in barley cultivation
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionClimatic Change. 2017, 145 (3-4), 351-365. 10.1007/s10584-017-2093-y
Although grass dominates most agricultural systems in the North Atlantic region (NAR), spring barley is the most important cereal and is used for animal feed and food and drink products. Recent changes in climate have resulted in warmer conditions across the NAR which have major implications for crop production. In this paper, we investigate the thermal requirement of spring barley in the region and use the results to examine the effects of recent trends in temperature and rainfall on barley cultivation, based on 11 regional meteorological sites. At these sites, between 1975 and 2015, we found significant warming trends for several months of the cropping season and significant trends for increases in the cropping season degree days (CSDD). In recent years, this has resulted in an increased proportion of years when the estimated minimum thermal requirement for barley has been met at sites above about 60°N. However, annual variations in CSDD are large and years still occur at these sites where this is insufficient. While warming could potentially allow an earlier start and later end to the cropping season, it is likely that high rainfall at maritime sites, and low rainfall at continental sites, will limit the ability of growers to benefit from this. Warming is considered to have been one of the main factors contributing to the large expansion of the area of barley cultivated in Iceland since the 1990s.