Making agriculture climate-change-proof and reducing its contribution to climate change


Medium- and long-term projected climate change poses numerous challenges for the Swiss agriculture and food sector. Effective and efficient measures must be developed with the aim of strengthening the climate resilience of production systems and guaranteeing food security, whilst protecting the bases of production (soil, water) and contributing to national and international climate-protection targets.  

Ways of exploiting opportunities associated with climate change should also be made available. Among these would be the choice of suitable crops, varieties and sites, climate-adapted cultivation and irrigation methods, and changes in farm management, land use, animal husbandry and technology. The measures must be implementable and regionally differentiated. To this end, future climate risks must be regionally forecasted and the effect of the implemented measures must be reviewed on a regular basis.

Scientific Objectives and Research Questions

The main objectives of the scientific work are to promote understanding of the consequences of climate change for the Swiss agricultural sector, and to evaluate options for medium- and long-term adaptation so that the domestic agricultural sector can produce successfully and in a climate-friendly manner, even under changing climatic conditions. The following research questions are subordinate to these main objectives:

  1. In the medium term (2050 et seq.), should we expect an increase or decrease, differentiated according to region, in direct (especially owing to extreme events) and indirect (including pests, plant diseases, invasive species, loss of soil fertility, etc.) risks in plant and animal production associated with climate change?
  2. How does climate change alter the spatial pattern of suitability for cultivation of the crop-plant species and varieties grown today, and what new potentials are available?
  3. At the plot, farm, and spatial-planning level, what robust, economomically reliable measures increase the climate resilience of production systems, preserve the multifunctionality of agriculture, and protect the production bases (including the soil and water), bearing in mind a growing demand for foodstuffs produced in Switzerland?
  4. How does the need for adaptive measures in practice change in relation to the extent of climate change (including change in temperature or precipitation, frequency of extremes)? Are there critical thresholds regarding changes for certain measures?
  5. What are the economic consequences (costs/benefit) of the adaptive and transformative measures taken as a result of climate change, and how is the competitiveness of the Swiss agricultural sector changing in the face of rising world-market prices owing to climate change?
  6. In barn-and-pasture husbandry, what measures are effective for reducing the intensity of emission levels from animal production, and likely to be implemented in practice?
  7. What measures can be taken to create synergies between climate adaptation and climate protection (reduction in emissions and improvement of sinks for greenhouse gases) without economic losses, and how can these be implemented independently, or via incentives?