The Finalized Project "CLIMAGRI"
on Climate Change and Agriculture

The CLIMAGRI web site [italian contents]

A three-year research project called “CLIMAGRI” began in February 2001. It is financed by the Ministry of Agricultural and Forestry Policies (MiPAF) with D.M. 494 and 504/7303/2000. CLIMAGRI is oriented toward understanding the consequences of climatic variations in Italy in the agricultural sector. It aims at an in-depth understanding of the interrelationship between agricultural and climatic variations.

Climatic changes and environmental variations are particularly important subjects of scientific research at this time. These changes elicit wide political and economic interest and can significantly influence the quality of life and human activity, which in turn can influence the climate in general.

As early as 1988, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in accordance with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), created a group of experts at the international level, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to define the level of international understanding and knowledge. The concerns of this group are:
  • climate and its changes;
  • environmental as well as economic and social impact;
  • possible strategies of response.

Reports of the IPCC and the follow-up work of various conferences and international committees have led to the approval of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was also signed by Italy at the 1992 Congress at Rio de Janeiro and put into force on 21 March 1994. A step towards better understanding and perfecting the agreements at the international level took place at the Conference on Climatic Changes in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997. In this event, a protocol was approved, whose formalization began on 15 March 1999.

At Kyoto, however, other uncertainties emerged which still exist in the scientific world. These relate to the degree of direct and indirect consequences produced from global climatic changes. However, it was established that, in the specific case, scientific uncertainty does not have to justify inaction. From there came the need to promote other international conferences, leading to that of Bonn, Germany, in November 1999. This conference was intended to concretize policy agreements aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere that are influenced by climate changes. The assumption proven was that sustainable development should be considered as the only acceptable kind for human progress. Up until now, however, the Kyoto agreements have been ratified in few countries; no industrialized country has done so. Indeed, there is still debate on this ratification between the European Union (EU) and the United States of America that at the end of the Conference of the Parties reunited in The Hague in November 2000.

FAO and the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) are among the most important organizations that are active at the international level in resolving the examined problems. These organizations manage important research programmes in which Italy also participates, including the World Climate Programme (WCP). The EU also finances various research programmes in the sector. WMO then set up a “Working group on the impact of management strategies in agriculture and forestry to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to climate variability and climate change.”

Therefore, the National Scientific Research Programme (NSRP), from recommendations of IPCC and WCP, but also from communications on climate change presented at Kyoto by the Ministry of the Environment, which bear in mind that “every strategy aimed at solution and adaptation to climate change cannot do less than contribute to scientific research”, outlined the principles of a proposal entitled “Meteorology and Climatology” However, this has not yet been launched.

The NSRP was planned and structured to be consistent with the European programmes on the subject. It pursued objectives and strategies such as seeking organic integration in the large international programmes on climate and on global environment. The implementation and realization of the Programme was entrusted to the competent ministries (University and Scientific and Technological Research; Commerce, Industry and Handicraft, Environment, Agricultural and Forestry Policies, and Transport. A section of this Research Programme also regarded the agricultural sector and was very close to the main outlines of development of the finalized Project of agrometeorological research which the Central Office of Crop Ecology (UCEA), in the framework of great scientific and political ferment, had already autonomously been preparing in the project called CLIMAGRI.

CLIMAGRI began, as mentioned, in February 2001 and therefore deserves the privilege of being the first major operative step, the first part of a national programme for the protection of the climate.

The CLIMAGRI project represents research in the sector of agrometeorology, with hopes to initiate the study of the consequences of climatic changes on agricultural activity and the ways of confronting them. Its important objective is to acquire an agroclimatic analysis of the national territory in all fields, showing anomalies and existing or hypothetical climatic changes with specific references to the impact that they could have on Italian agriculture.

CLIMAGRI will try to give an overall framework to respond, first of all in the agricultural field to the Italian expectations in terms of analysis and forecasting of current or predicted climatic changes. Changes or climatic variability, as we know, have general effects also in sectors of health, security and the economy, as well as in the control of water resources. For this reason, CLIMAGRI takes into consideration, not just than general agricultural issues, but also some problems of water management, an element that suffers severely limited availability according to climatic variations. In the future, we will be able to examine others.

Finally, this set outs to be a scientific project with the functional target of suggesting possible behaviour and rapidly relaying the information and the results efficiently and practically, with the most appropriate means, for the agricultural user. This will certainly add very positively to the reputation of the Agricultural Administration and above all, could provide opportunities related to strategic, scientific and political concerns. It could yield data and results serving as an adequate government means that MIPAF could use to have the most concrete elements of support for political management, both internal and external, placing the concerned authority in the condition to respond better to the demands coming from conferences such as Kyoto, also increasing the credibility of the Italian scientific claims in an international context.

With information of collected data and experimental results, CLIMAGRI will then also help facilitate a more careful and mature mentality for safeguarding the environment. However, this should be realistic and of high quality and therefore, reach the level of competitiveness and of national and international scientific approval, to face the complexity of issues at play. This will not be a collection, a summary of an uncoordinated initiatives, nor will it be a repetition of already routine operations, but will be a potential improvement—attempting to outline an overall framework with various essentials that may accurately respond, in agricultural field, to the country’s expectations in terms of forecasting, analysis and response to the foreseen or predictable climatic changes or to those already existing.

Fifty-two Italian research institutes are directly or indirectly involved in the 19 research topics under which CLIMAGRI is organized. These include: Institutes and university departments; Institutes of the new Agricultural Research Council (CRA); National Research Council (CNR) Institutes; certain regional meteorological services; and the General Meteorological Office of the Air Force.

The CRA Institutes other than UCEA are as follows:
  • Istituto Sperimentale per le Colture Industriali (Bologne) (Research Institute for Industrial Crops);
  • Istituto Sperimentale per la Nutrizione delle Piante (Rome) (Research Institute for Plant Nutrition);
  • Istituto Sperimentale per la Selvicoltura (Forestry Research Institute)(Terni);
  • Istituto Sperimentale Agronomico (Bari) (Institute of Agronomic Research);
  • Laboratorio Centrale di Idrobiologia (Rome) (Central Hydro-Biology Laboratory]

The general coordinator of the project is Domenico Vento, the Director of UCEA. The coordinating staff consists of 5 people, three for the scientific and technical sector- Stanislao Esposito, Coordinator, Chiara Epifani and Alessandra Saioni, and two for the administrative sector – Anna Tritto, Coordinator, and Cristina Galliera.

Brief syntheses will follow on various lines of research grouped into four Sub-Projects in which the overall project is structured.

Sub-Project 1 – Climate Analysis and Future Scenarios
Its purpose is to acquire an objective response on the consistency of the climatic variations in Italy and based on realistic hypotheses of various possible future agrometeoclimatic scenarios.
Coordinator: Maurizio Maugeri

1.1 - Acquisition, critical examination and analysis of an Italian historical series for the determination of climate variations. (Maurizio Maugeri, Institute of General Applied Physics, Milan)

The purpose of research 1.1 is based on 38 historical series of more than 100 years of archived data at UCEA. It will identify trends for the meteorological parameters to consider and therefore evaluate possible climatic changes drawing from observed data. It will also face the observed trends at a national scale and those relative to larger areas. The long historical series of data consider essentially average monthly values.

1.2 - Study on the possible variations in the structure of meteorological data and of Italian rainfall regimes. (Domenico Vento - UCEA - Rome)

Topic 1.2 considers rainfall only. Its main objective is to delve into the knowledge of how the pluvioclimatic systems of rural areas have advanced in the last decades and to determine how they correlate with adjoining urban areas and possibly, if we can speak of tropicalization. We will attempt to verify if the rainfall regimes in the areas of agricultural interest are varied and if such variations are ascribable to urbanization. Therefore, all of this will be studied by entering into the specifics of rainfall structures in the sample areas considered, during various periods of the year.

1.3 Construction of future climatic scenarios at a high resolution aimed for the study of their effect on Italian agriculture. (Gaetano Zipoli- Institute of Agrometeorology and Environmental Analysis for Agriculture [IATA] -CNR- Florence).

Topic 1.3 will look at the creation of scenarios that relate to predicted climatic change at various spatial resolutions. As a future scenario, we mean the results of all the groups of analytical procedures that are pertinent to the national territory, relative to the foreseen climatological situation according to possible variations in the concentration of greenhouse gases.

Detailed data currently available will be used that relate to four scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions that alter the climate, produced from a model of general circulation (General Circulation Model – GCM of Hadley Centre) at a spatial resolution of approximately 350 km, and of a regional climatic model (Regional Circulation Model – RCM) inserted in GCM, at a spatial resolution of about 50 km.

Sub-Project 2- Italian agriculture and climate change.
This aims at evaluating the climatic variations and the consequences on the Italian agriculture, to plan possible actions for adaptation.
Coordinator - Franco Zinoni

2.1 Classifying the agricultural potential of the national territory on a climatic and pedological base (Luigi Perini - UCEA - Rome)

This research represents a natural continuation of the line of study and the evolution of specific scientific experience that matured by individual researchers. The results will be formed mainly by a thematic map at the most detailed scale possible, carrying out the first “pedo-agro-climatic atlas” of Italy. It will allow for a dynamic interaction with the databases.

2.2. Identification of agricultural areas and crops at high risk due to climatic variations. (Pierpaolo Duce - Institute for Monitoring Agro-Ecosystems-National Research Council [CNR] - Sassari)

The specific objectives of topic 2.2 are the identification of climate risk indices and developing an analytic methodology for evaluating the susceptibility to climatic variations of the sample agricultural area and of its typical arboreal and herbaceous crops, as well as pinpointing the maps of climatic risk for certain agricultural production and the consequent quantitative and qualitative instruments to support decisions on agricultural planning.

2.3 -Impact of climate changes on risk of freezing (winter, early and late) and on the satisfaction of cold requirements (chilling) of cultivated species. (Franco Zinoni – Regional Agency for the Protection of the Environment-Regional Meteorological Service-[ARPA-SMR] - Bologne)

Topic 2.3 aims to evaluate the impact of current climatic changes occurring in certain meteorological situations, particularly ones that may severely damage the agricultural sectors; we will also redefine the probability of early and late freezing in certain typical Italian agricultural areas , which are correlated with the development cycles of main crops foreseen based on future climatic scenarios . We will also work to develop a prevention plan against the damage of freezing by evaluating the efficiency of protection systems that are largely eco-compatible.

2.4 Environmental impact of the main cropping systems in hill areas, in relation to climatic changes. (Prof. Pierpaolo Roggero - Department of Agrarian and Environmental Biotechnology, University of Ancona)

The object of this topic is to create an instrument to support decision-making for the integrated planning of the sustainable use of agricultural and territorial resources in the hill environments. We will hypothesize future scenarios of various climates in the research areas (in Marche and Emilia Romagna Regions).

2.5 The active role of agriculture in the mitigation processes of global climate change (Anna Benedetti – Research Institute of Plant Nutrition. Rome).

The objective of topic 2.5 is the study of the impact of different types of land management (cropping practices, etc.) on the carbon cycle and on carbon dioxide emissions from the soil through the quantification of phenomenon for various climatic and environment typologies (natural areas, reforested, pasture, etc.) . Therefore, this will allow for the identification, for the Italian environment, of a statistical-mathematical model able to estimate the involvement of certain different environmental situations on the cycle of organic matter and in the process of the mineralization of carbon and hence of the reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

2.6 - Experimental seasonal forecasts. .(Antonio Navarra – National Institute of Geophysics - Rome)

Navarra has drafted of the Guidelines of the National Research Plan for Climate Protection, written for the Ministry of the Environment.

The objective of topic 2.6 is the study of certain cases striving to ascertain the use of seasonal forecasting in agriculture, with accuracy and reliability at the level of Italian reality and through the simulation of operational processes. The input data will be different from that of the European Centre of Reading. This research will be able to constitute a confirmation test of the results of topic 2.7.

2.7 - Definition of “downscaling” systems of global models for seasonal forecasts to be used for agrometeorological applications at a national level. (Carlo Cacciamani - ARPA-SMR - Bologne).

Research topic 2.7 aims to evaluate the efficiency of the statistical and physical-dynamic methods currently used to refine and better identify for the agriculture, in Mediterranean area and at the Italian level, seasonal forecasts carried out with the general circulation models of the atmosphere. The input data are from the European Centre of Reading.

2.8 Analysis and inventory of long-term agronomic experiments: productivity and the carbon cycle. (Giuseppe Zerbi - Department of Vegetal Production and Agrarian Technologies, University of Udine).

Through the data analysis of the long-term series of agronomic practices and of productivity , suitably filtered from false and disturbing facts and phenomena, topic 2.8 will look for the relationships among variables in the ecosystem and climatic changes. In any event, a database will be created, which collects principal information and data related to the aforementioned long-term agronomic experiments that have been the bases for agrometeorological modelling.

Sub-Project 3 - Drought, desertification and management of water supplies.
This project aims at deepening knowledge of certain environmental issues connected to possible situations of lacking water supplies.
Coordinator- Antonio Brunetti

3.1 Permanent monitoring of drought in agriculture and highlights the desertification processes of desertification in southern Italy (Antonio Brunetti - UCEA - Rome)

The objective of research project 3.1 is to determine the indicators that may allow for the study of the impact of the changeable climatic scenario on the adaptive capacity of the crops to drought events. Therefore, it will allow for the construction of a support system to decision-making according to the management of water resources, the choice of agricultural practice and of environmental planning for national territory.

3.2 Irrigation planning and water management analysis (Marcello Mastrorilli – Agronomic Research Institute – Bari)

The climatic changes carry modifications in the intake, both in terms of quantity and in quality of utilized water. The research will quantify, in irrigational volume terms, the influence of the future climatic scenarios on the development and growth of the main Mediterranean crops (corn, wheat, sorghum, beetroot, tomato).

3.3 Forecasting models of the results of temperature and ultraviolet radiation increases on the dynamics of zooplanctonic populations of interest in aquaculture. (Maurizio Severini - Atmospheric Physics Institute [IFA]- Rome)

Topic 3.3 aims at defining a method to diagnose and predict the impact of a possible temperature increase of the environment and ultraviolet radiation at ground level on the dynamics of the zooplanctonic populations in aquaculture. This will aim at identifying the alarm thresholds, procedures and devices that are capable of alleviating the negative consequences on keeping low costs and environmental sustainability of productive fishing activity.

3.4 Statistical evaluation of some cases of artificial increase of rain (Francesca Gallo - Statistics Department, University La Sapienza, Rome).

The evaluation of the efficiency of the project of the artificial increase of rain, carried out in Puglia from 1991 to 1994, had been developed in the past by UCEA. The results were presented in 1996 at two international conferences.

This research aims at final in-depth look at the possible side effects produced from artificial interventions by resorting to the study of other data, with regard to 1996, such as radar and upperair soundings, as well as operational methods of cloud seedings.

3.5 Impact of climate change on agricultural systems: search for indicators of drought tolerance. (Enrico Brugnoli – CNR – Agroforestry Institute, Porano TR)

The object of this study will be the variations of the concentrations relative to stable isotopes of oxygen and carbon in the tissues and organs of certain herbaceous species (sunflower, wheat and rice) and arboreal species (chestnut, poppy, and oak). On the aforementioned basis, we will identify indicators of environmental stress tolerance, in particular to drought and high temperatures, which are attributable to climatic change. This will permit the formulation of forecasting models of agrarian productivity in environments characterized, presumably, by different availability, both in water in the soil and water vapour.

Sub-Project 4 -Disseminating and exchanging information
The purpose is the improvement of the national structures of weather forecasting and disseminating data.
Coordinator: Giovanni Dal Monte.

4.1 Computerized dissemination of data and results of the CLIMAGRI project. (Giovanni Dal Monte - UCEA - Rome) This topic will provide a thorough service for CLIMAGRI, to allow the participants to share data and information coming from individual research and to diffuse data and results abroad in order to more efficiently promote dissemination of information.

4.2 - The enhancement of meteorological modelling at a limited area targeted to agrometeorological forecasting operating within the MiPAF context. (Andrea Buzzi - Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science [ISAC]-CNR - Bologne)

For agricultural purposes, and with much greater detail than at present, topic 4.2 will specialize in short-term forecasting provided by the SIAN (National Agricultural Information System) model and at a limited area defined by DALAM (Data Assimilation Limited Area Model). From the input data furnished from the European Centre of Reading, the new procedures will allow for the attaining of spatial resolutions that are at least double the current ones and will therefore provide a much more dedicated support to agrometeorological forecasting than that prepared by UCEA since 26 April 1999 for the daily broadcasting on the television channel RAINEWS24 and for the Internet site of MIPAF/UCEA.

4.3 International dissemination of data and collected results of CLIMAGRI (René Gommes -FAO- Rome)

This deals with collaboration with FAO, which aims at the transfer of methodology, elaborated in the project, regarding developing countries around the Mediterranean, as well as creating a multilingual Internet site developed specifically for updating of information on CLIMAGRI’s progress.

Link :

With CLIMAGRI, we will therefore begin to confront certain agricultural issues that depend on climatic changes; we will deal with current research and significant scientific insight that can be considered as a prelude to study and work in the near future, being able to involve a much larger agrarian area. CLIMAGRI will be able to consider, ultimately, the first part of a Programme carried out for the protection of climate in Italy. The desire is that the results be high enough to match the expectations and the profuse commitment for carrying out the project and that other sectors in social life be confronting in its own special subject matters tied to climatic variations. In this way, Italy may adequately develop, in international connection, in line with its cultural and scientific traditions, its role – that of being a country sensitive to environmental issues.

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