Vulnerability of Bulgarian agriculture to drought and climate variability with focus on rainfed maize systems.

Popova Z., Ivanova M., Martins D., Pereira L.S., Doneva K., Alexandrov V., Kercheva M.
Natural Hazards, 1-22.

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Bulgarian agriculture is affected by droughts and, likely, by climate change. Thus, aiming at assessing its vulnerability, this study includes a general characterization of climate variability in eight selected locations, both in northern and southern Bulgaria. Trend tests were applied to monthly precipitation, maximum and minimum temperature and to the Standardized Precipitation Index with two-month time step (SPI-2) relative to the period of 1951–2004. Negative trends were identified for precipitation and SPI-2 at various locations, mainly in the Thrace Plain, indicating that dryness is likely to be increasing in Bulgaria. The vulnerability of rainfed maize systems to drought was studied using the previously calibrated WinISAREG model and the Stewart’s yield model to compute both the relative yield decrease (RYD) due to water stress and the corresponding net irrigation required to overcome those losses. Results identified a strong relation between SPI-2 for July–August (SPI-2July–Aug) and RYD. Results also show that yield losses are higher when the soils have a smaller soil water holding capacity. For the various regions under study, thresholds for RYD were defined considering the related economic impacts and the influence of soil characteristics on the vulnerability of the rainfed maize systems. Finally, to support drought risk management, SPI-2July–Aug thresholds were developed to be used as indicators of the economic risk of rainfed maize for various climate regions and soil groups in Bulgaria.