The agricultural sector is affected both by negative impacts of climate change and contributes to climate change through its greenhouse-gas (GHGs) emissions. For this reason, agriculture plays a key role in defining successful adaptation and mitigation measures. In the framework of the LIFE AgriAdapt project, more than 120 pilot farms are testing sustainable adaptation measures to enhance the farm resilience to climate change, reduce GHGs emissions and improve the farm competitiveness.
One of these pilot areas is located in Melque de Cercos (Segovia, Spain), in a rainfed organic farm of 110 ha of Utilised Agricultural Area (UAA) (another case study taken from AgriAdapt is available for Heilbronn, Germany). In this area, the annual average precipitation and temperature (calculated for the period 1992-2015) are respectively 384 mm and 12º C. The average yearly number of hot days (with temperatures above 30 ºC) is 41. The main cultivated crops in the farm are six-row winter barley, fodder vetch (Vicia monantha), rye, sunflower and soft winter wheat. 5% of the UAA is left fallow every year. The farm has light sandy-loamy soil and no flooded areas, with low erosion rate since soil is tilled by chisel. It performs organic farming practices in accordance with the Regulation (EC) Nr. 889/2008. The cultivated plots are small and some in contact with semi-arid vegetation.
The main climate change related challenges affecting the farm are extreme temperatures and heat waves, droughts, desertification and soil degradation, more frequent pests and diseases attacks and biodiversity loss due to the increasingly extreme conditions. A number of sustainable adaptation measures have been implemented in the farm to cope with climate change effects, including: cultivation of local crop varieties showing higher resistance to climatic stressors, improved rotation of crops, cultivation of associated legumes and cereals in forage crops and adjustment of the sowing date to avoid high climatic risk periods. Moreover, farmers leave the stubble to avoid bare soil and apply manure more often (every two years) to increase soil organic matter. Multifunctional field margins have also been created to reduce soil erosion and increase biodiversity, with benefits for pollinators and other beneficial insects.