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Journal Articles Global Change Biology Year : 2023

Future area expansion outweighs increasing drought risk for soybean in Europe

Stefan Fronzek
Agnieszka Klimek-Kopyra


The European Union is highly dependent on soybean imports from overseas to meet its protein demands. Individual Member States have been quick to declare self-sufficiency targets for plant-based proteins, but detailed strategies are still lacking. Rising global temperatures have painted an image of a bright future for soybean production in Europe, but emerging climatic risks such as drought have so far not been included in any of those outlooks. Here, we present simulations of future soybean production and the most prominent risk factors across Europe using an ensemble of climate and soybean growth models. Projections suggest a substantial increase in potential soybean production area and productivity in Central Europe, while southern European production would become increasingly dependent on supplementary irrigation. Average productivity would rise by 8.3% (RCP 4.5) to 8.7% (RCP 8.5) as a result of improved growing conditions (plant physiology benefiting from rising temperature and CO2 levels) and farmers adapting to them by using cultivars with longer phenological cycles. Suitable production area would rise by 31.4% (RCP 4.5) to 37.7% (RCP 8.5) by the mid-century, contributing considerably more than productivity increase to the production potential for closing the protein gap in Europe. While wet conditions at harvest and incidental cold spells are the current key challenges for extending soybean production, the models and climate data analysis anticipate that drought and heat will become the dominant limitations in the future. Breeding for heat-tolerant and water-efficient genotypes is needed to further improve soybean adaptation to changing climatic conditions.

Dates and versions

hal-03971926 , version 1 (03-02-2023)



Claas Nendel, Moritz Reckling, Philippe Debaeke, Susanne Schulz, Michael Berg-Mohnicke, et al.. Future area expansion outweighs increasing drought risk for soybean in Europe. Global Change Biology, 2023, 29 (5), pp.1340-1358. ⟨10.1111/gcb.16562⟩. ⟨hal-03971926⟩
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