Climate Change and Its Repercussions for the Potato Supply Chain
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- Haverkort, A.J. & Verhagen, A. Potato Res. (2008) 51: 223. doi:10.1007/s11540-008-9107-0
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Since the onset of the industrial revolution, in 1750, the concentration of carbon dioxide rose from 290 to 380 parts per million. Especially during the last decennia, the effects of increased greenhouse gases concentrations are being felt. The last 14 years worldwide contained the warmest 13 years since weather recording started. For southern Europe, the major effects reported by the International Panel on Climate Change are reduced water availability and a shorter suitable winter time slot for potato production. For northern Europe, climate change will bring a decreasing number of days with frost and a lengthening of the growing season. It will be associated with more rain in winter and less in summer, with more erratic but heavier rain storms. For potato production in Mediterranean and Sahelian types of climate, during the heat-free period of the year, yields will go down as the suitable period becomes shorter. With a higher evaporative demand, the resource water will be used less efficiently. Potato yields in temperate climates may increase—provided that water for irrigation is available—due to a longer growing season and higher carbon dioxide concentrations in the air. The quality may be affected as larger tubers with a higher dry matter concentration are expected. Problems with pests and diseases are expected to increase with a longer growing season at higher temperature which allows more cycles of multiplication and greater pressure. Late blight will also have a longer period to build up and erratic rains will make control more difficult. Seed production with increased vector pressure will become more costly because fewer field generations will follow the rapid multiplication stage and seed production may move further north. Present potato areas in Europe, however, are more affected by economic factors such as inadequate farm size, changing habits, and remoteness of markets than by climate determined suitability of growing conditions. To remain competitive, the industry will have to invest in strengthening existing production areas and assess the potential of new potato production areas (further north), in new varieties adapted to extremes in weather (heat, drought), in irrigation equipment, in equipment better adapted to wet soil conditions to assure accessibility, and in improved stores with more stores equipped with refrigeration as higher winter temperatures more frequently will make it impossible to keep ware potatoes cool with ambient air. Assessment of both climate change and market liberalization in Europe shows other roads ahead than when only climate effects are taken into consideration.