Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 365–374 | Cite as

An economic assessment of drought effects on three grassland systems in Switzerland

  • Robert FingerEmail author
  • Anna Katarina Gilgen
  • Ulrich E. Prechsl
  • Nina Buchmann
Original Article


This paper analyzes the economic impacts of summer drought on Swiss grassland production. We combine field trial data from drought experiments in three different grasslands in Switzerland with site-specific information on economic costs and benefits. The analysis focuses on the economic implications of drought effects on grassland yields as well as grassland composition. In agreement with earlier studies, we found rather heterogeneous yield effects of drought on Swiss grassland systems, with significantly reduced yields as a response to drought at the lowland and sub-alpine sites, but increased yields at the wetter pre-alpine site. Relative yield losses were highest at the sub-alpine site (with annual yield losses of up to 37 %). However, because income from grassland production at extensive sites relies to a large extent on ecological direct payments, even large yield losses had only limited implications in terms of relative profit reductions. In contrast, negative drought impacts at the most productive, intensively managed lowland site were dominant, with average annual drought-induced profit margin reductions of about 28 %. This is furthermore emphasized if analyzing the farm level perspective of drought impacts. Combining site-specific effects at the farm level, we found that in particular farms with high shares of lowland grassland sites suffer from summer droughts in terms of farm-level fodder production and profit margins. Moreover, our results showed that the higher competitiveness of weeds (broad-leaved dock) under drought conditions will require increasing attention on weed control measures in future grassland production systems. Taking into account that the risk of drought occurrence is expected to increase in the coming years, additional instruments to cope with drought risks in fodder production and finally farmers’ income have to be developed.


Drought Grassland Weeds Yield Economic costs and benefits 



The paper is a contribution to the activities of the National Centre of Competence in Research on Climate (NCCR Climate) supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation. We would like to thank Simon Briner for providing information on census data and helpful comments, as well as two anonymous reviewers and the editor for constructive comments and very helpful suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Finger
    • 1
    Email author
  • Anna Katarina Gilgen
    • 2
  • Ulrich E. Prechsl
    • 3
  • Nina Buchmann
    • 3
  1. 1.Wageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Institute of Plant Sciences and Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of BernBernSwitzerland
  3. 3.Institute of Agricultural Sciences, ETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland

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