Crop yield variance and yield gap analysis for evaluating technological innovations under climate change: the case of Finnish barley

Reimund Rötter


The quest for sustainable intensification of agricultural systems has recently triggered research on determining and closing the gaps between farmers’ actual and potential crop yields that can be obtained under optimal management. This so-called “yield gap” is then taken as a yardstick for indicating the potential of technological innovations in agricultural production. In this paper, we argue that in order to assess risks and opportunities for technological innovations we need extra information on crop yield variances in different production situations.

Starting point is to assess farmers’ actual yields using data in sufficient quality and resolutions. Crop simulation models are then applied to quantify crop yield potentials and their variances in a changing environment. Resultant information allows ex ante evaluation of innovations that aim at increasing and stabilizing yields.

Here we present this approach for barley cultivation in Finland for observed (1981-2010) and future climate (projected for three time periods centered around 2025, 2055 and 2085). Mean and median levels, variances and probabilities of simulated potential and water-limited and observed farmers’ yields are generated for two contrasting regions for analysing production risks and assessing the effectiveness of alternative technologies. As farmers show different levels of risk-aversion, which influence their investments in technological innovations, a so-called ‘normal management mode’ is defined. Employing this then shows how future yields and yield variances are likely to develop under normal management. On this basis, we finally identify which future innovations have the potential to maintain or increase barley yields at acceptable risk levels.


Authors: Jukka Höhn, Reimund Rötter, Taru Palosuo, Fulu Tao, Heikki Lehtonen

Affiliation: Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), 00790 Helsinki, FI

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