Agroscope FAL Reckenholz, Swiss Federal Research Station for Agroecology and Agriculture, Zurich

Agriculture and the heatwave of summer 2003

During August 2003, the highest temperatures were recorded since the beginning of the measurement period in Switzerland in 1753. Together with the hot July they made up an extremely rare summer heatwave. Already in February, precipitation amounts were very low and remained low during the rest of the summer. As a result, soils were drying out in many parts of the country. Yields of different crops and fodder cereals decreased by an average of 20 % compared to the mean for the years 1991 to 1999. Largest yield reductions occurred in the western to northern parts of the country. The Swiss Farmers’ Union estimates losses of up to 500 Million Swiss Francs. In the course of the year, national and cantonal administrations took effective measures to mitigate the bottlenecks especially with regard to cattle feed supply. In the long-term, such interventions could become a rule as climate models predict this type of Mediterranean weather to occur every second year by the end of this century.

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