, Volume 111, Issue 7, pp 1316-1321
Date: 27 Sep 2005

Adaptation of crops to environment

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Adaptability is defined as the ability of a crop (or variety) to respond positively to changes in agricultural conditions. The trait is genetically controlled and provides an ability to exploit environmental attributes, both natural and agronomic. Values of relative adaptability can be determined by the regression of the yield of the tested crop over the average yield of compared crops from several environments. We evaluated relative adaptability of 12 staple crops in 12 European countries and compared the yield data over a 43-year period from 1961 to 2003. An additional set of average yield data was also available for the 15 European Union (EU15) member countries. A wider range of 26 crop species was investigated that allowed comparisons between Europe and the USA between 1961 and 2003. Adaptability was closely related to the annual yield increases of the crops studied (r 2=0.999 both in the EU15 and the USA). However, the adaptability of certain crops differed between the two regions. Pulse, maize, millet, wheat and sorghum showed the highest adaptability in the EU15 region, whereas strawberry, pear, tomato, walnut and maize were highest in the USA. The lowest adaptability was found for walnut, pear, apple, cauliflower and hop in the EU15 and for mustard, hop, sugar beet, millet and oat in the USA. In European countries, crops with similar biology, environment and agronomical practices (like the amount of fertilizers and pesticides applied) tended to have similar adaptability values. The data indicate that high adaptability is an important prerequisite for continued yield gains in the best environments.

Communicated by H. C. Becker