Due to global population growth, there is an increasing demand for food production. Consumers are informed about positive (stronger immune system through vitamins) and negative (cancer through pesticide residue) effects of nutrition, and there are also many health-related dietary requirements (e.g. lactose or gluten intolerance, diabetes, etc.) that result in the need for high quality and safe food. Another challenge for agriculture is adaptation to climate change (CC) especially in areas with intense competition for natural resources between agriculture and other uses, or with sensitivity to environmental degradation such as soil erosion, desertification or salinization.
Current trends in agriculture involve employment of new technologies for farm mechanization through drones and sensors and even robotics to reduce production cost, improve resources use efficiency and alleviate labor scarcity in the framework of precision agriculture (for detailed reading see FAO (2017)). Information technology, new software and smartphone applications are developed for decision making and support of farmers and advisors in the era of big data. In addition, biotechnology is applied for selection or creation of more resilient plant varieties and biological control of diseases, and policy strategies such as the circular economy are put into practice to achieve economically and environmentally sustainable models through minimizing waste and leakage. Farmers need education and cooperation to adapt to new technology and market trends and to achieve viable farming entities.
CC is mainly expressed through temperature raise, changes in precipitation level, spatial and temporal distribution, changes in atmospheric gases, ice melting and extreme weather events (IPCC 2014). The main impacts for plants are yield reduction due to insufficient water supply and/or heat stress, crop damage due to extreme weather events as well as extinction of plant species due to their environment being no longer suitable for their survival. Water management may play a key role in agricultural sustainability, especially in the era of CC and given the necessity for increased food production.
The aim of this special issue is to provide insights into advances in prediction, monitoring and mitigation of CC effects on water resources and to provide good agricultural practices for crop adaptation to environmental stresses. The inspiration came from the international conference ‘Climate Changing Agriculture’ organized by the oLIVE-CLIMA project (LIFE 11 ENV/GR/942), ‘Introduction of new olive crop management practices focused on CC mitigation and adaptation’ co-funded by the European Commission (http://www.oliveclima.eu/en/). An overview of CC impact on agriculture opens this issue taking as examples the cases of olive (Montanaro et al. 2018), cotton and maize (Voloudakis et al. 2018) and potato (Knežević et al. 2018), followed by a hydrological study in a typical hilly Mediterranean area (Arampatzis et al. 2018). Forest water conservation services (Zhang & Zhang 2018) and mapping sensitivity to desertification in areas with high competition between agriculture and tourism, and intense pressure on water resources (Morianou et al. 2018), conclude the first part of this issue. The second part opens with impacts of drought and temperature on grapevine (Chrysargyris et al. 2018a, 2018b) and lentils (Theologidou et al. 2018). Multiyear experiments on the effects of olive orchard management on soil physical, chemical and biological properties in relation to water availability are presented for Spain and Greece (Bechara et al. 2018; Kavvadias et al. 2018a, 2018b; Repullo-Ruibérriz de Torres et al. 2018). Last but not least, it is my great honor to host a must-read technical paper on photosynthesis measurements by a pioneer group in the field (Haworth et al. 2018).
From the bottom of my heart I would like to thank the authors, the reviewers and the journal staff who contributed to the preparation of this special issue. I hope you enjoy reading and find useful information for your work.