It is well known that climate change will impact arable crop production across Europe in coming decades. Air pollution is already having substantial impacts on crop productivity causing yield losses of between 10 and 15% on average across Europe for sensitive staple crops such as wheat. What is unclear is how these stresses will combine to impact crop growth, development and yield through influences on important crop resource use efficiencies such as radiation, water and nutrient use.

This project will develop a new generation of process-based crop models to better understand the mechanisms and impacts of these multiple stresses, both for the current day and future 2050 climates. it will identify the magnitude, frequency and geographical distribution of the combined stresses most likely to limit resource use efficiency and hence crop productivity. This will be important since, in spite of international efforts to reduce emissions, poor air quality in Europe is currently set to continue to substantially impact crop yields until at least 2050 and greenhouse gas emissions are still on course to see large changes in climate over the coming decades.

Wheat field under cloud-filled blue sky

Photo: Howard Cambridge / SEI.

This project focuses on four goals. Firstly, to define which multi-stress combinations (aerosol and ozone pollution, drought, high temperatures, low soil fertility) are most likely to adversely affect crop resource use efficiency and ultimately crop growth, development and yield. Secondly, to describe the frequency, magnitude and geographical distribution of the most damaging of these multi-stress combinations and where they are most likely to occur across Europe both for the current day as well as the future (2050). Thirdly, to use this information to identify new plant traits that could be bred for, and new crop management practices that could be employed by farmers, to help adapt to the stresses resulting from air pollution and climate change conditions. Finally, through conducting this research in partnership with a variety of stakeholders, to understand the context within which these threats manifest themselves so as to identify appropriate, realistic and feasible solutions for their remediation.

The project will build on existing initiatives to develop modelling approaches and conduct this research in close dialogue with policy and sector stakeholders that are partners of our consortium of eight world-leading expert groups skilled in climate change and air pollution in relation to experimental and crop modelling.

Ultimately, this project will target an increase in the sustainability of agriculture across Europe and a reduction in the threats to crop resource use efficiency from both current and future climate change and air pollution stress.

SUSCAP is one of 13 projects of SusCrop, an ERA-Net Co-fund Action under H2020, which aims to strengthen the European Research Area (ERA) in the field of Sustainable Crop Production through enhanced cooperation and coordination of different national and regional research programmes.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No [771134].