Free Sample

This page shows what you are going to find in each booklet from this TenProblems series. In particular, a sample from booklet #1, “Ten Problems for Agriculture in the 2020s“, is presented. The sample is made of: 1) the general introduction to open issues for agriculture in the 2020s, as envisaged by global leaders in the lastest year; 2) the first chapter (out of ten) from the booklet, which is made of: the problem statement, the case studies, the conclusions section and the list of ten selected, freely available, internet references. All booklets follow this same template: a general introduction to the subject; ten chapters introducing ten relevant issues, each through ten selected, freely available references; a final chapter intended as an executive summary with all the conclusions, as taken from each chapter.

Agriculture for the 2020s

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) wrote in a recent 2019 open commentary [1] that three main issues are being faced by Agriculture at global level for the next decade: 1) provide food for a growing population, expected in the region of 10 billion people by 2050; 2) provide economic sustenance for workers, especially in developing and emerging countries; 3) mitigate its huge environmental footprint, in particular water consumption (at 70% of the world total) and greenhouse emissions (at 11% of the world total).

Policies can create synergies or trade-offs between competing objectives, that’s why OECD invited all the stakeholders (including farmers, traders, food manufacturers, consumer representatives, agricultural input suppliers, researchers, environmental Non-Governmental Organizations or NGOs, and policy makers) to a Global Forum on Agriculture in May 2019 [2].

The Forum’s Summary Record [3] reports that, as expected, stakeholders at different level in the global food chain have different problems and ask for local solutions. Among others, they mention long-term vs short-term objectives, the destination of public money, trade deals and tariffs, environmental sustainability of the supply chain, food security for disadvantaged sectors of the general public, food safety and food waste in countries not following the best practices.

Solutions were invoked for better infrastructures at local level, improved scientific and technological support, fairer international trade deals, more balanced approaches to health issues like obesity on one end and famine on the other end of the consumer spectrum. Subsequent panels extended the debate, but the final remarks by the Head of the Agro-food Trade and Markets Division in the OECD Trade and Agriculture Directorate, Prof Jonathan Brooks, suggested that much is still needed in terms of cooperation, case studies and wider global effort to generate appreciable results, in that calling for updates at a United Nations (UN) Food Systems Summit in 2021.

Unofficial aggregations and lobbies are also making their voice heard worldwide, here in particular the Union of Concerned Scientists through a written contribution on Agriculture for the United States in the coming decade [4]. It reports that climate change will impact heavy a system model that already “neglects soils, reduces diversity, and relies too heavily on fertilizers and pesticides”. In particular, altered temperature and precipitation patterns are expected to cause floods, droughts, crop and livestock viability, novel threats from unexpected pest, pathogens or weed insurgence. These will be exacerbated by degraded soils, simplified landscapes and intensive inputs.

Starting from such general references, this booklet identifies ten relevant areas from very recent contributions put forward at academic level in the form journal articles, conference proceedings and students theses. Ten freely accessible internet references have been selected for each area and direct links are provided at the end of each chapter for own consultation. Our selected references do not intend to mirror ranking indexes nor establish novel classifications. On the contrary, they are meant to represent peer-reviewed, diverse and scientifically-sound case studies for vertical dissemination aimed at non-specialist readers. They will also be able to scoop even more references through the bibliography that is reported at the end of each selected reference.

Without further ado, these are the “Ten Problems for Agriculture in the 2020s” that we are going to introduce in this booklet:

  1. climate change, 
  2. precision agriculture,
  3. crop planning,
  4. climate-smart,
  5. soil ecosystem,
  6. entrepreneurship,
  7. competitiveness,
  8. sustainability,
  9. developing countries,
  10. biological control.

Each problem has its own dedicated chapter made of an introductory section, a short presentation of the ten selected references and a conclusions section.

The final chapter of this booklet will report the conclusions from each chapter again in order to provide a complete executive summary.


[1] OECD, “Three key challenges facing agriculture and how to start solving them”, 2019, , online, consulted on 01 Jan 2020

[2] OECD, “OECD Global Forum on Agriculture 2019: Policy Priorities for the Global Food System”, 2019,  , online, consulted on 01 Jan 2020

[3] OECD, “Summary Record of the OECD Global Forum on Agriculture 14 May 2019“, 2019, online at 

[4] Union of Concerned Scientists, “Climate Change and Agriculture – A Perfect Storm in Farm Country”, 2019, , online,  consulted on 01 Jan 2020

1 Climate change

THE PROBLEM – Recent case studies from around the world show changed patterns of local microclimate being direct consequence of global climate change. As a result, farmers need to adapt crops to survive and sustain their business. Historical and new data must be collected, analyzed and compared to understand the new quantitative patterns locally, in particular where economies are struggling and farmers from isolated rural areas or minorities are more exposed to poverty.

CASE STUDIES – Case studies in the form of academic contributions from the United States [1], India [2], Pakistan [3], South Korea [4], Australia [5], Vietnam [6], Nepal [7], Lebanon [8] and Serbia [9] are presented briefly. They make an acceptable mix of fully developed, developing and under-developed economies, each with their own issues and struggles. At the end, the book of abstracts from a recent Conference on salinization with case studies at world level, hosted in the Netherlands [10], is introduced.

An analysis of 1997-2018 crop yields and market prices from the Greater Midwest (i.e. Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin) in the United States [1] shows that altered weather and economic patterns influenced heavily crop yields and marketability for corn, soybeans and wheat. In particular, precipitation before the planting season and average temperature influenced yields in a decisive manner, while prices of corn and wheat negatively related to current year yield. Such findings are useful in that they would help policy makers, researchers, producers and landowners make more informed cropping decision.

At the other end of the varieties and marketability spectrum, India presents a struggling rural economy in sub-tropical or semi-arid conditions with depleted sandy loam soils, where cereals are the most widespread crop and soil organic matter the fundamental variable to assess and preserve [2]. In that sense, it is argued that crop rotation and management is the easiest and most effective way to achieve soil organic matter conservation and optimal carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, also mitigating adversarial climate change and extreme weather effects.

A survey from District Sargodha in struggling Pakistan [3] established that local farmers are generally married, middle-aged men with primary education. From a comparison with similar districts abroad, it concluded that further education, media exposure and community membership would help raise farmers’ awareness about climate change effects and suitable adaptation strategies.

A study from the more developed South Korea [4] showed that the peninsula is suffering from average temperature rise, heatwaves and concentrated floods, in line with a transition to subtropical weather patterns. In that sense, adversarial impact is more felt at local level in just some districts. The study concluded that new vulnerability assessments will need to employ regression analysis and weighted variables to quantify damage costs in a reliable manner.  

Millennium Drought in 2003-2011 led to address in a quantitative manner the interaction between extreme climatic conditions and agricultural productivity performance. In that sense, it was studied [5] how data on soil moisture and temperature varies with official Australian productivity measures for non-irrigated agriculture at the regional level. The analysis found that slow adoption of technological innovation in 1973-2013 had a bigger impact on productivity than extreme weather effects.

Vietnam is heavily impacted by climate change effects and its economy highly relies on vulnerable rice production. A very recent survey [6] found that weather shocks in the form of floods, typhoons and droughts negatively affect technical efficiency. Also, additional days with a temperature above 31°C dampen technical efficiency and the negative effect is increasing with temperature.

A study focused on two local communities in Nepal [7] found that vulnerable groups in economically developing societies feel climate change impacts the most. Their effects, though, are interpreted through social and cultural layers of understanding and awareness. Thirty qualitative interviews found that sanitation and cleanliness were more important than temperature and weather changes, typically linked to local causes rather than global patterns.  

Desertification and its 2005-2013 effects on hydrological variables in El Asi-Orontes watershed from Lebanon were assessed [8] and it was found that land use change was instead the main responsible of degraded infiltration capacity and soil moisture. Therefore, the study recommended to change the land use patterns of the region to preserve sustainability for the future generations.

In Serbia, wheat yields largely depend on rainfall instead of irrigation. Using a set of panel data on selected Serbian municipalities in 2000–2013, a multidimensional regression combined data on achieved yields with data on weather factors [9]: temperature, precipitation, extraterrestrial radiation, and evapo-transpiration. Results showed a robust, statistically significant impact of change in average daily water deficit on decreased wheat yields, rapidly losing on intensity and significance above 100 m.

Salinization of freshwater is the accumulation of water-soluble salts in the soil. It limits crops ability to get  water. Its impact on food security was the subject of a very recent Conference in the Netherlands and the full book of abstracts here referenced [10] presents a number of issues, case studies, adaptation strategies, mitigating practices and recommended policies from all around the world.

CONCLUSIONS – The impact of climate change on local crop production all around the world is mainly related with altered rainfall and local weather shocks from droughts or floods, which alter the soils ecosystem and add to non-optimal crop management practices. Sound knowledge of the issues is often missing at local level, especially in struggling rural areas from under-developed countries. The adversarial effects of climate change at local level might be mitigated by the adoption of suitable recommendations generated by quantitative studies. Governmental policies should be focused on further education and widespread information of farmers in rural areas, faster adoption of technological innovation and enhancement of general services to local communities.


[1] N.H.K. Chowdhury, “Assessment of Crop Yield Response to Change in Weather Pattern: Evidence from the Greater Midwest”, North Dakota State University, 2019 Agricultural & Applied Economics Association Annual Meeting, Atlanta, GA, July 21 – July 23, online at 

[2] R.K. Naresh et al., “Soil organic carbon dynamics and their driving factors on cereal cropping systems productivity in confronting weather change challenges of sub tropical conditions: A review”, International Journal of Chemical Studies 2019; 7(1): 1355-1364 , online at 

[3] M.Q. Ashraf et al., “Determinants of Adaptation Strategies to Climate Change by Farmers in District Sargodha, Pakistan“, 2018, Int.J.Econ.Environ.Geol.Vol. 9(1) 16-20, Jan-Mar 2018, online at 

[4] J. Jung, “An Analysis of Regional Climate Change Vulnerability in Korean Agriculture”, 2019, Master’s thesis, Seoul National University, online at 

[5] R.G. Chambers, “The Millennium Droughts and Australian Agricultural Productivity Performance: A Nonparametric Analysis”, University of Queensland, 2019 Agricultural & Applied Economics Association Annual Meeting, Atlanta, GA, July 21 – July 23 , online at 

[6] Y. Diallo et al., “Impacts of extreme events on technical efficiency in Vietnamese agriculture”, 2019, Études et Documents, n° 12, CERDI, online at 

[7] N. Nash et al., “Perceptions of Local Environmental Issues and the Relevance of Climate Change in Nepal’s Terai: Perspectives From Two Communities”, 2019, Front. Sociol. 4:60. doi: 10.3389/fsoc.2019.00060 , online at 

[8] S. Abou Najem, “Desertification assessment and future scenarios in the context of the climate change influence in Lebanon: planning for restoration activities and hydrological modelling”, 2019, PhD thesis, Universidad de Córdoba, online at 

[9] M. Jelonik et al., “Estimating impact of weather factors on wheat yields by using panel model approach — The case of Serbia”, Agricultural Water Management 221 (2019) 493–501, online at 

[10]  Book of Abstracts – Saline Futures Conference 2019, “Addressing Climate Change and Food Security Building a community of science and practice on saline agriculture”, Waddenacademie, 10-13 September 2019, Leeuwarden, the Netherlands , online at