Heatwaves in Crops: The Growing Threat of Climate Change to Agriculture

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Climate change is having a significant impact on agriculture, and one of the most concerning problems is heatwaves in crops. These extreme conditions pose a growing threat to agricultural production in Spain, making it essential to understand their causes and seek effective solutions to mitigate their effects.

Rising temperatures are one of the main causes of heatwaves in crops. . According to studies by the Observatory of Sustainability, temperatures have increased by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius in over 50% of Spanish municipalities in the last 60 years. The State Meteorological Agency (AEMET) warns that the average temperature in Spain has experienced an increase of 1.3ºC in the same period, and this upward trend is expected to continue in the coming years The Mediterranean, in particular, is one of the most affected regions, with a more accelerated warming during the summer. Furthermore, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) predicts a 2.2ºC increase by 2030 without changes in current policies.

The history of heatwaves in Spain reflects an increase in the frequency and intensity of these events in recent years. The Ebro Valley, Andalusia, and Murcia suffer crop damage due to hot and dry summers. This situation has resulted in considerable economic losses and a decrease in the quality and quantity of crops.

To mitigate the effects of heatwaves, it is crucial for farmers to implement several measures. Firstly, improving irrigation management is essential. Ensuring that crops receive an adequate water supply during periods of extreme heat is crucial. Efficient irrigation and water monitoring alleviate thermal stress on exposed plants.

Another relevant measure is to adopt appropriate cultivation practices. Using soil covers and cover crops can help maintain soil moisture and reduce evaporation. These practices also improve soil structure and promote biodiversity, which is beneficial for crops in general.

Implementing protection and shading techniques is also advisable. Shade screens and mesh reduce solar radiation, protecting crops and reducing thermal stress.

Lastly, selecting crop varieties more resistant to heat is advisable. Choosing varieties adapted to high temperatures increases survival and production under thermal stress conditions.

Seeking Effective Solutions

Beyond good agricultural practices, we have natural solutions that can help our crops cope with abiotic stress. Among these natural solutions, we find compounds like glycine, betaine, proline, sucrose, and trehalose. These compounds act as osmoprotectors, maintaining osmotic balance and protecting plant cells from damage caused by extreme heat.

In addition, antioxidants play a key role in combating heatwaves. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C), tocopherols (vitamin E), polyphenols, and glutathione are examples of antioxidant compounds that neutralize free radicals and protect cells from the oxidative damage caused by heat.

We must not forget the role of abscisic acid (ABA) among these natural solutions, an essential phytohormone in the plant’s response to heat stress. ABA regulates stomatal closure to reduce water loss and controls water balance, ensuring that plant cells and tissues remain protected during thermal stress conditions.

Heatwaves represent an increasingly significant threat to agricultural crops in Spain. Climate change has exacerbated this problem, but through the implementation of proper agricultural practices and the adoption of natural solutions to neutralize these stress situations, farmers have the ability to mitigate the effects of heat and protect our crops, ensuring healthy and robust growth.