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Climate change impact on yield and income of Italian agriculture system: a scoping review


Climate change poses significant challenges to agricultural systems in the Mediterranean region, with Italy being significantly affected. This literature scoping review aims to examine existing research on the impact of climate change on yield and income on the three agri-food value chains in Italy: viticulture, fruit and vegetables, and dairy cattle. By analysing the available literature, this study seeks to outline the pros and cons, knowledge gaps, and potential areas for future research. A systematic search of scientific databases was conducted to identify relevant articles published between 2000 and 2022. The search terms included climate change, agriculture, Italy, yield, income, and related keywords. Articles were screened based on predetermined inclusion and exclusion criteria, resulting in a final selection of studies. Quantitative information was collected and organized into descriptive tables. The review encompassed 44 studies that investigated the impact of climate change on yield and income in various agricultural sectors across different regions of Italy. The findings indicate that climate change is already impacting crop productivity and income levels, with increased temperature, changes in precipitation patterns, and extreme weather events being identified as the primary drivers. Additionally, disparities were observed between different agricultural regions, crops, and farming systems, highlighting the need for location-specific and crop-specific assessments. The scoping review provides a prospective overview of the existing literature on climate change impacts on yield and income within the Italian agriculture system. It underscores the urgency for targeted adaptation strategies to minimize the negative consequences of climate change. Further research should focus on understanding the complex interactions between climate change, agricultural practices, socio-economic factors, and policy interventions to develop context-specific solutions for sustainable agriculture in Italy.

Graphical abstract


Climate change has emerged as a significant global challenge, affecting various sectors, including agriculture. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2021 affirmed the urgency of global action to combat climate change and challenging effects that are difficult to control (IPCC 2021). Similarly, in 2015, the European Environment Agency (EEA) highlighted the systemic environmental challenges posed by climate change to food security, specifically highlighting the potential consequences for European Union (EU) agricultural production across diverse climate zones (EEA 2015). Climate change presents a considerable threat to agriculture, which, in turn, significantly contributes to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, primarily due to its reliance on fossil fuels as a major human activity.

The agricultural systems of different countries, including Italy, are particularly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change, with the Mediterranean region being particularly susceptible (Wiebe et al. 2015). It is crucial to understand the impact of climate change on agricultural suitability, productivity, and income to develop effective mitigation strategies (Abd-Elmabod et al. 2020). In the coming decades, the intensification of hard-to-predict extreme weather events and induced disruptions, coupled with the inherent complexities associated with future climate scenarios, will exert pressure on the agricultural sector and food systems. This pressure will impact farmers’ incomes and the survival of farms. The expected decrease in agricultural productivity due to climate change, together with the difficulty farmers face in adapting, could significantly impact economic growth (FAO et al. 2022). Gaining a comprehensive understanding of the potential ramifications of climate change on agricultural yield and income within the agriculture value chain are of paramount importance in formulating effective strategies for adaptation and mitigation. The occurrence of extreme weather conditions not only inflict economic losses upon farmers, but also has adverse repercussions for the broader agri-food chains. Much of the literature on climate change and climate variability has emphasized the importance of management and adaptation responses at the farm level to effectively address future scenarios (Reidsma et al. 2010; Zhao et al. 2022).

It is crucial to recognize that farmers, especially those operating on a small or medium scale, are highly vulnerable to climate change, which directly impacts crop yields, jeopardizes income stability, and even undermines their viability.

Additionally, climate change impairs the ability to maintain requisite production quality standards across the value chain. Moreover, the escalating extent of climate change-induced damages exacerbates the difficulties faced by insurance companies in terms of providing adequate compensation (Clapp and Isakson 2023).

This scoping review aims to evaluate the existing research and synthesize evidence on the impact of climate change on yield and income within three value chains in Italy: viticulture, fruit and vegetable cultivation, and dairy production.

These sectors hold substantial economic importance in the Italian agri-food production system. When considering the value of agricultural production alone, which exceeds 61 billion euros, fruit and vegetables account for 24% of the total, dairy and fodder account for 12%, and wine products (excluding wineries) contribute 10% (CREA 2022). Furthermore, these sectors hold significant importance as they represent the production, processing, and preparation of high-quality agribusiness products or foodstuffs within a specific geographical area, using well-established knowledge and expertise. Notably, in 2022, these chains contributed to a substantial export value of 11.6 billion euros, supporting a workforce of 890,000 individuals across 296 protection consortiums (Ismea-Qualivita 2023).

The vulnerability of Italy and its agricultural sector to climate change-related phenomena is also a critical issue identified by the Italian National Plan for Adaptation to Climate Change (MASE 2023). Likewise, the Italian Strategic Plan of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) 2023–2027 acknowledges the imperative of climate action (European Commission 2024). It supports a series of cross-cutting measures aimed at improving the competitiveness and sustainability of Italy's agriculture and rural areas, with over 12 billion euros allocated from the plan's budget for interventions focusing on climate and environmental initiatives, including soil conservation practices and minimizing the use of fertilizers and pesticides (MASAF 2024). These Italian policies align with broader European strategies, such as the European Green Deal and the EU Adaptation Strategy (European Commission 2024), and international frameworks like the Paris Agreement, underscoring the relevance of Italy as a representative case study for understanding the regional impacts and responses within a global context.

The main objective is to conduct a scoping assessment of key components about the research on the impact of climate change on the analysed value chains in Italy. This assessment presents an overview and the extent of projected climate variables and their effects hypothesized by research studies, synthesizing proposed recommendations to address these impacts.

Overall, the aim is to enhance the robustness of the research by fostering an inclusive and multidisciplinary approach towards the guiding research question. By surpassing the confines of individual disciplinary silos, we aim to forge a scientifically rigorous framework for investigating and tackling these topics. The insights derived from this analysis will be significantly important to farmers, researchers, policymakers, and stakeholders. The paper is structured as follows: the Introduction section sets a research background and the scope of the work; the Methodology section describes the review protocol in detail; the Results and Discussions section presents an overview of selected studies along the value chains; and the Conclusions and lessons learnt section examines the main findings of the research and offers actionable guidance in addressing the challenges posed by climate change in the three agricultural sectors that were analysed. The collected quantitative data are summarized in tables, encompassing study areas, crop varieties and animal breeds, climate projections and variables, and impact assessments.


The research developed a literature review protocol proposed by Arksey and O’Malley (2005) and Daudt et al. (2013) for conducting scoping studies. The framework includes the following six steps: (1) identifying the research question; (2) identifying relevant studies; (3) study selection; (4) charting the data; (5) collating, summarizing, and reporting the results; and (6) a summary and lessons learned.

The guiding research question is: What insights does the literature offer regarding the effects of climate change on viticulture, dairy cattle, fruit, and vegetables value chains in Italy as explored by researchers?

The search protocol to identify relevant studies was conducted in Web of Science, Scopus, and Google Scholar databases. These three databases are academically recognized and widely used for systematic reviews. Specifically, the Web of Science and Scopus were selected as they cover a wide range of natural science and interdisciplinary index studies, while Google Scholar was used to refine the literature search. The literature search through Web of Science and Scopus was conducted specifically targeting original articles published in peer-reviewed journals that exclusively address climate change issues pertaining to the aforementioned value chains. Furthermore, the references cited in the identified papers were examined following the same search criteria. The search was limited to the period 2000–2022 in order to avoid outdated information. The search terms for each value chain are reported in Table 1.

Table 1 Summary of the search protocols employed for the selected value chains

We utilized the Mendeley reference management system to import and organize the search results from our study. The flow chart presented in Fig. 1 illustrates the step-by-step processes undertaken during the literature search and selection. The initial screening process prioritized the selection of studies that specifically investigated and provided insights on Italian regions or, at most, other Mediterranean regions if there are comparable conditions.

Fig. 1
figure 1

Flowchart illustrating the step-by-step process for literature search and selection

While reviewing abstracts and titles, particular attention was given to identifying quantitative results related to future climate variables (such as projected changes in temperature and precipitation) derived from climate models or historical climate trend.

Consequently, the subsequent stage of data collection throughout the entire content of the article focused on including quantitative impacts (derived from crop models or mixed methods) related to phenology, yields, impacts on product quality, farmers’ income, and adaptation actions. Despite the abundance of available literature on this topic, only a limited number of studies have specifically analysed the impact of climate change on the yields and incomes of farms within the selected supply chains and areas. Through our research, we identified a total of 44 studies that meet the applied search criteria.

Given the nature and complexity of the effects of climate change, the data were sorted into individual tables according to key supply chains. For the collation, summary, and reporting of results, a spreadsheet was employed to capture the extent and essential details of each article. Key information such as authors, study area, specific crops or varieties/breeds, hypotheses on climatic variables, impacts on phenology, yields, quality, income, and proposed adaptation strategies was systematically recorded for comprehensive analysis and reporting. The comprehensive details extracted from the research papers are presented in the Supplementary Information (Additional file 1: Tables S1, S2, S3, S4), whereas Tables 2, 3, 4, and 5 provide a summary and overview of the research methodology employed and the related findings. In the forthcoming section, an exhaustive examination of the most pertinent papers is presented, with a focus on highlighting the most relevant scientific advancements in the field. The scoping review's inherent approach and methodological design make it prudent to acknowledge potential limitations, such as the inclusiveness of the search strategy, language and publication bias, and the absence of an explicit assessment of the quality or risk of bias in the included studies (beyond the scope of scoping reviews), which may affect the overall reliability and validity of the findings.

Table 2 Key findings from literature review of the viticulture sector
Table 3 Key findings from literature review of the fruit and vegetables sector
Table 4 Key findings from literature review of the dairy cattle (feed crops) sector
Table 5 Key findings from literature review of the dairy cattle (milk) sector


Viticulture sector

The results of the literature review in the viticulture sector based on screening 15 contributions published in peer-reviewed scientific journals provide quantitative and descriptive data useful for assessing the impacts of climate change scenarios (Table 2).

These studies specifically focused on the C1, C2, and C3B community wine-growing zones, which encompass a wide range of territories in Italy. These zones are differentiated based on various factors that influence grape cultivation and quality, ultimately shaping the characteristics of the wines produced.

Most studies address the impacts of climate scenarios by referring to future climate projections and simulations extracted from general circulation models (GCMs) or regional climate models (RCMs). Future scenarios are typically studied using various climate models under different climate radiative forcing scenarios or representative concentration pathways (RCPs). These account for possible future evolutions of greenhouse gas emissions, solar activity, pollutants, and land use (IPCC 2014). These scenarios help to inform policy and decision-making by providing a range of outcomes and the likelihood of different outcomes occurring. All studies report changes in climatic variables primarily driven by changes in temperature and precipitation (increasing or decreasing), which can significantly impact phenology, yields, crop quality, and income for winegrowers.

In summary, the findings from the studies can be encapsulated in the major study by Moriondo et al. (2011), which created an operational framework to investigate the impact of climate change on viticulture in Tuscany—a region renowned for producing high-quality wines. The framework encompasses statistical downscaling of general circulation model (GCM) data for the period 1975–2099, utilization of downscaled data in simulation models, spatial interpolation of model outputs, and an economical and quality model. Due to a gradual rise in temperature and reduced precipitation, the study's findings suggest various changes occur: the expansion of suitable grapevine cultivation areas, a shorter grapevine growth cycle, a gradual decline in final yield, and a shift in premium wine production areas to higher altitudes. The authors assert that this proposed framework serves as an effective tool for assessing climate change impacts at a local scale and can be extended to test different adaptation strategies related to management practices and grape varieties.

Among the reviewed studies, the work of Teslić et al. (2019) evaluated the impact of climate change on viticulture in Emilia-Romagna, Italy, using bioclimatic indices and two RCP scenarios (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5). The study results indicated that most of the region will remain suitable for grape production from 2011 through 2040 under both RCP scenarios.

However, the study also highlighted that the suitability of some areas will decrease, while the suitability of other areas will increase by the end of the century. Moreover, the study found that by the end of the twenty-first century, the suitability of Emilia-Romagna for grape production will be affected to varying degrees depending on the RCP scenario considered. Under the RCP8.5 scenario, the entire region is likely to become too hot for grape production by the end of the century. Conversely, under the RCP4.5 scenario, the region could still be suitable for grape cultivation, albeit with changes in grape yield and quality, varietal suitability, and wine types. These findings underscore the importance of considering different scenarios when evaluating the potential impacts of climate change on agriculture and developing adaptation strategies accordingly.

Similar results are highlighted in the study by Sacchelli et al. (2017), which reports a reduction in revenues and financial damage due to decreased yields and quality of the Sangiovese variety in Tuscany. This is consistent with the findings of other studies that have reported a generalized increase in temperatures, a decrease in rainfalls, and earlier phenological stages in various regions and wine varieties. The evidence of this review suggests future negative impacts of climate change on the viticulture sector in Italy and the need for adaptation measures to protect the yields and the quality of grapes, as well as the financial sustainability of the industry. Some studies have proposed short-term and long-term adaptation measures. As proposed by Naulleau et al. (2021), short-term measures concern new irrigation systems and water management options, modification in canopy management and density, changes in harvesting dates, soil management, and insurance programmes for adapting wine-growing systems. Long-term measures involve the use of drought-resistant or heat-tolerant varieties, the cultivation of late varieties, and cultivation in new sites. These measures should help farmers adapt to changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, protect their crops and livelihoods, and increase their resilience to a changing climate. As suggested by Merloni et al. (2018) in a study assessing adaptive capacity to climate change in the wine industry in Emilia-Romagna, climate-aware producers are more inclined to adopt adaptation strategies that are well suited for ensuring long-term profitability.

Fruit and vegetables sector

In the review related to the fruit and vegetables sector, 11 contributions were examined. Most of these studies focus on the national territory, while a few encompass the broader context of the Mediterranean area (Table 3).

Additionally, the studies analysed also included a global review of climate impacts on perennial crops (Winkler et al. 2013) due to the scarcity of research on the impacts of climate change on orchards or perennial crops in Italy and Southern Europe. The climate change projections considered in the different studies are mainly derived from GCMs and RCMs that refer to assumptions of different emission scenarios.

All projections predict temperature increases; otherwise, the increase or decrease in precipitation is predicted depending on location. For the assessment of the climatic impacts of annual crops on potential changes in yield and production quality, models based on cultivation processes are mainly used. Modelling involves various approaches and, in some cases field experiments that consider changes in input factors. Most of the results of these models predict anticipation of phenological stages, a significant reduction in yield, and a negative impact on production quality. In the case of some horticultural crops, climatic effects can potentially increase the number of annual cropping cycles, due to the extension of the vegetative period, increasing the overall yield on average (Bisbis et al. 2018). Giuliani et al. (2019) conducted research located in the Southern Capitanata plain in Apulia, the main cultivation areas of the Italian processing tomato. The findings indicated that climate change had a predominantly adverse effect on tomato yields, resulting in an average decrease of 5–10%. However, they also identified potential solutions to mitigate this impact, including the use of deficit irrigation strategies (returning 60–70% of the crop evapotranspiration), adopting varieties with longer growth cycles, and advancing transplanting dates by 1–2 weeks. These measures could help to counteract the negative effects of tomato production.

Some studies based on biophysical modelling (Di Bene et al. 2022) and field experiments demonstrated yield stability under temperature increase for vegetables (i.e., tomato, lettuce) even if quality could decrease.

Fewer studies have been performed for perennial crops, in particular for fruit growing in Italy. As reported by Winkler et al. (2013), climate assessments for perennial crops are essentially based on empirical relationships developed between climate observations and plant phenology and, less frequently, between climate observations and yield. Because of their exposure to variable weather conditions throughout the year, perennial crops are particularly vulnerable. However, impact assessments for perennial crops are hampered by the lack of models for yield simulation, modelling efforts remain largely empirical. Analyses of the effects of historical climatic variability on perennial crops, while varying by crop type and location, show earlier flowering dates and earlier sprouting. In addition, these analyses indicate changes in fruit quality when temperatures exceed crop-specific optimum temperatures and when winter is short, and spring has cold temperatures.

Dairy cattle (feed crops)

In the review related to feed crops for dairy cattle, a total of 12 publications were examined (Table 4).

These analysed studies present new opportunities for future research to support crops under severe climatic conditions. The identified impacts vary and are linked to specific crops (such as wheat, barley, corn, cereals, soy, and sorghum) based on the geographical context of the study. The inclusion of wheat in the analysis arises from the scarcity of dedicated studies on straw cereals directly used in animal feed or by feed companies. Consequently, we extend the analysis to encompass wheat, considering it has shared agronomic, ecophysiological, and input characteristics with straw cereals.

Climate changes can significantly affect crop yields, impacting the overall economic viability of farms. Under this perspective, specific research in the literature evaluates the effects of climate change on crop production. Regarding crops intended for animal feed, scientific interest is growing in extreme climatic events. These analysed studies open new opportunities for future research to support crops in different scenarios under severe climatic conditions.

The emerged impacts are different, and they are linked to crops considered (wheat, barley, corn, cereals, soy, sorghum) according to the geographical area in which the study was contextualized. The inclusion of wheat within the study stems from the scarcity of dedicated studies on straw cereals directly utilized in animal feed or by feed companies. Consequently, we extend the analysis to encompass wheat, considering its shared agronomic, ecophysiological, and input characteristics with straw cereals. More in detail, the scientific studies analysed were conducted through climate projections mainly concerning two types of adverse climatic events such as temperature variation (extreme maximum and minimum temperatures) and variation in rainfall. The methodology used to quantify the impact of the climatic events consists of the application of Crop Simulation Model (CERES, ISI-MIP), Climate Model (CanESM2, HadGEM2-ES, CCSM4, GFDL-ESM2M, NorESM1-M, EPIC), Circulation Models (HadCM3, CCSM3, ECHAM5), which use quantitative descriptions of ecophysiological and atmospheric processes to predict how crop growth and development are influenced by climatic conditions. Scientific research conducted by Tuttolomondo et al. (2009) indicate that one of the main factors contributing to climate change is the greenhouse effect that causes variations in barley production due to climate change, based on variations in temperature and rainfall. The CERES model was used to simulate barley growth and development coupled with climate change scenarios. The results of the study are localized in four large areas in Italy is considered representative of the different pedoclimatic conditions characterizing the Italian territory (S. Angelo Lodigiano, Lombardy) for the North of Italy; Jesi (Marche) for Central Italy; Foggia for the Southern Italy; Cammarata (Agrigento, Sicily) for the Islands. In detail, the results show the absence of significant differences in the precipitation and temperature scenarios compared to the base. In particular, the results show that in S. Angelo Lodigiano area there is a yield difference (minimum and maximum) lower than 18% for the various scenarios generated with different temperature and rainfall conditions. In Southern Italy, the difference (minimum and maximum) is lower, and the response to different temperatures and precipitation conditions is stable. The maximum barley yields of the four stations ranged from 5 to 6 t/ha (Cammarata station in Sicily) to 10–11 t/ha (S. Angelo Lodigiano station in Northern Italy). The minimum yields showed satisfactory levels (3–4 t/ha) for all stations and meteorological scenarios with which limited variations were studied.

The main findings resulting from other studies analysed show how climate change associated with the presence of prolonged periods without frost leads to the expansion of areas suitable for cultivation with higher yields (Ventrella et al. 2012a; Dono et al. 2013). On the other hand, the overall expected reduction in rainfall and extreme heat waves can negatively affect crop productivity, leading to greater variability in yield and, in the long run, a change in crop variety and the introduction of new cropping systems (Garofalo et al. 2019).

In their study concerning the impact of climate change on maize, Bocchiola et al. (2013) provide compelling evidence that in the context of the Po Valley, a foreseeable future climate scenario marked by elevated temperatures and diminished precipitation will demand a greater reliance on blue water resources, in particular irrigation water. These results underline the crucial role of adequate water management strategies in ensuring the long-term viability of the fruit and vegetables sectors in the region. On the other hand, recent studies conducted by Dibari et al. (2020) and Casale and Bocchiola (2022) focused on the potential effects of climate change in the productivity of mountain pastures. Under this perspective, Dibari et al. (2020) used GIS techniques to define and environmentally characterize the main pasture macro-types over the Italian Alps. The authors find that the projected climatic conditions will determine a reduction of the areas currently suited to natural pasturelands of the Italian Alps. The effects generated are significant as they lead to variations in the composition of ecosystems and pose a threat to the biodiversity of the Alps. Additionally, these effects can significantly alter the nutritional value of mountain grazing areas.

This causes an increase in management costs for farmers because they will be forced to provide additional nutrients for livestock feeding to guarantee or maintain an adequate production level. Casale and Bocchiola study (2022) moves in the same direction, but with different results. In detail, the authors provided a study located in Italy Valtellina Valley and introduced some agroclimatic indices, related to growing season parameters, climate, and water availability to evaluate the impacts of climate changes in pasture production under the IPCC AR5/AR6 scenarios. They applied the climate-driven, hydrologically based model Poli-Hydro, nesting the Poli-Pasture modules simulating plants' growth. The authors concluded that an increase in mean temperature as expected may bring better conditions to the chosen pasture species on average by increasing growing season length and increasing biomass.

Dairy cattle (milk yields)

Regarding the impact of climate change on cow milk yields, a literature review consisting of 8 publications was conducted (Table 5).

The studies, largely carried out on empirical observations, focus on animal heat stress and milk quality as a result of climatic variations (minimum and maximum temperatures and precipitation) and present point results concerning breeds (Holstein and Holstein) and geographical areas studied (Italy and the Mediterranean area). The scientific studies analysed were conducted through data collected in significant time frames on substantial numbers of animals, combined with data (humidity, wind speed, wind direction, rainfall) from meteorological stations in the areas taken into consideration. The method used to measure how climatic events affect cow milk production relies on a well-known formula introduced by Berry et al. (1964). The decrease in milk yield (in kilograms per day) is calculated using the following formula: Decrease in milk yield (kg/day) = − 1.075–1.736 × NL + 0.02474 × NL × THI. Here, NL represents the normal daily milk production in kilograms per day, recorded within the temperature range of 10–18 °C. THI refers to the average daily temperature–humidity index, observed within the range of 15–20 °C. The results show how extreme weather events related to temperature and rainfall variations affect milk yields and milk quality (fat and protein). In general, dairy cows in heat stress consume less feed and produce less milk than cows in an adequate temperature zone.

Because studies propose temperature range deviations and adjustments of conventional THI for weather data (wind and rain) at a seasonal level, it was possible to identify critical THI thresholds in different production systems with negative effects on fat and protein yield, particularly in late lactation, and a decrease in milk production from 1 kg/day (Bernabucci et al. 2014) to 7 kg/day (Vitali et al. 2019). In addition, it was possible to quantify milk yields under heat stress and cold temperature conditions promptly and to obtain information on changes in milk protein fractions (Bertocchi et al. 2014) and their relationship to milk dairy properties (Bernabucci et al. 2015; Vitali et al. 2019).

Bernabucci et al. (2002) studied the adaptation capacity of dairy cows to heat stress and investigated compensatory changes in the plasma of summer-transitioning cows in Italy in response to increased stress compared to spring parturiting cows. On the other hand, Habeeb (2020) observes a different adaptation capacity of dairy cows in tropical and subtropical countries compared to the countries of the Mediterranean area. In Mediterranean climate regime, for each point of increase in the THI value beyond 69, milk production decreased by 0.41 kg per cow per day. In addition, feed intake and milk yield decreased by 9.6% and 21%, respectively. The study conducted by Dono et al. (2016) offers the most comprehensive analysis accomplished through an interdisciplinary modelling approach. The research provides an evaluation of the future impacts of climate change through the integration of climate, cropping systems, livestock, and economic models. The outcomes indicate that climate change is likely to have adverse effects on intensive dairy farming in Sardinia. These effects encompass a decline in milk production and quality, along with an elevated risk of cattle mortality due to rising summer temperatures, ultimately leading to a reduction in net farm income. To achieve better milk yield and quality, studies agree on adopting better dairy herd management (grouping strategies, fan cooling systems, feeding and nutrition) and selecting resilient animals to alleviate the negative effects, in particular, of a hot environment. Of course, adapting to environmental conditions entails greater expense in terms of energy consumption (indoor, intensive, and finishing systems), feed (minerals and vitamins) and water resources.

Discussion and Conclusions

Within the scoping review of articles encompassing viticulture, dairy cattle, and fruit and vegetable agri-food systems in Italy, a clear pattern emerges regarding the influence of climate changes on value chains. These events have the potential to adversely affect agricultural yields and farmers’ income, causing direct damage to crops during critical growth phases and compromising the overall effectiveness of agricultural inputs—such as water—both in the short and in the long term.

The impact of such events can vary widely depending on local (e.g. latitude and altitude) and context-specific conditions of production systems, such as crop type characteristics, soil composition and structure, and hydrogeological soil profile.

Various simulation models were employed in conjunction with climate projections to predict the interactions at local or regional scales among crops, soil, and the atmosphere under future conditions, with particular emphasis on phenology and yields. Overall, this study confirms the challenges in accurately estimating the impact of climate change, particularly for tree crops. These complexities stem from the inadequacy of crop model development, a finding also reported by Lorite et al. (2020). One of the significant limitations and sources of uncertainty relates to the challenge of integrating crop diseases, pests, and pathogens, thereby hindering accurate estimations of both present and future crop production levels and potential economic losses (Donatelli et al. 2017).

Emerging research is beginning to address these gaps. Notably, studies are exploring the projected impacts of fungal infections on wheat and grape crops across European regions (Bregaglio et al. 2013). Additionally, ongoing investigations are examining the effects of climate change on fungal diseases in Mediterranean fruit orchards (Bevacqua et al. 2023), as well as the current and future prevalence of rice blast disease in Northern Italy (Wang et al. 2021).

Notwithstanding modelling uncertainties due to the spatial heterogeneity across agroecosystems, the literature review shows that the impact of climate change on agricultural supply chains in Italy is complex and uncertain, and the three sectors may be subject to both pros and cons (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2
figure 2

Overview of pros and cons of impacts of climate change on viticulture, dairy cattle and fruit and vegetables in Italy

Regarding viticulture, positive effects include frost damage reduction and the possibility of an expansion of areas suitable for cultivation towards higher latitudes or in areas at higher altitudes. Negative effects include a generalized increase in temperature and irregular precipitation, which will result in crops being affected by earlier phenological phases or alteration of the vegetative cycle, as well as a decrease in yields and crop quality (lacking in freshness and aromatic composition).

These effects can have significant consequences, posing considerable challenges for winegrowers and agricultural planners are needed to address them effectively. For example, the northward shift of the most suitable viticultural regions is expected to lead to abandonment in many southern regions. This would imply several consequences such as economic impact for loss of jobs and profit for farms, repercussions for wine tourism, and changes in the landscape. Further implications pertain to premium wines and high-quality wine producers in regions strictly linked to climate (Jones et al. 2005) falling within the production area of ‘Controlled Denomination of Origin’ (DOC in Italian) wines (Law n.238 2016).

The issues raised here pose intriguing questions regarding the sustainability of vineyards, the necessity to redesign the zoning perimeter of DOC landscapes and the production specifications as new ‘terroirs’ (Bonfante et al. 2018), as well as consumer behaviour and their willingness to pay for new taste wines. As suggested by Naulleau et al. (2021), the future of abandoned vineyard areas remains uncertain in the event of migration and competition for conquering new areas.

For the fruit and vegetables sector, positive effects include the possibility of an expansion of areas suitable for cultivation towards higher latitudes or in areas at higher altitudes and increased annual cropping cycles. The negative effects result in reduced crop yields, disruptions in supply chains, and a decline in product quality, thereby exerting adverse effects on their organoleptic properties. A prominent example in the agri-food industry is processing tomatoes. Recent evidence suggest that projected climate scenarios in Italy are expected to decrease processing tomato production (concentrated in Apulia and Emilia-Romagna), impacting current levels of tomato production due to water resource constraints (Cammarano et al. 2022), imposing radical changes on business-as-usual cultivation practices.

Furthermore, the negative aspects at the regional level raise a series of multifaceted questions encompassing economic, social, and cultural dimensions. For instance, negative effects could impact some important fruit and vegetable products recognized as geographical indications by the EU regulation No 1151/2012, such as ‘protected designation of origin’ (PDO), ‘protected geographical indication’ (PGI), and ‘traditional speciality guaranteed (TSG) (The European Parliament 2012). As indicated by the EU regulation, the quality and diversity of the Union’s agricultural production gives ‘… a competitive advantage to the Union’s producers and making a major contribution to its living cultural and gastronomic heritage’. A recent study by Pagliacci and Salpina (2022) carried out in Veneto (Northeast Italy) identified the territorial hotspots of agri-food PGI exposure to climate disaster risk, and pointed out that some agri-food PGI (e.g. asparagus, cherries, and peaches) are particularly exposed. They ultimately indicated that the impact of climate change could be disproportionately local and called for scale-specific adaptation policy measures. This is consistent with the data obtained by Straffelini and Tarolli (2023), who mapped at high resolution the areas at risk of climate change at the farm scale in Northeast Italy, and indicated that 10% of horticultural crops in the future will be under arid conditions.

As far as forage crops are concerned, climate change negatively affects the productivity of farm animals and, therefore, compromises the food supply chain and the livestock sector economy. In particular, heat stress has a significant impact on the zootechnical sector with changes in the productivity of pastures and forage crops. Over time, advances made in climate adaptation strategies to partially alleviate the impact of heat stress on animal performance as well as forage crops during warm seasons. As underlined by the literature, in the Mediterranean areas warmer temperatures and the deficit of summer precipitations could shorten the grazing period and decrease the production of forage and its quality. In the north-western areas, moderate warming can, however, be beneficial for livestock activities in the short to medium term, thanks to the increase in the productivity of pastures.

For dairy cows, there are beneficial approaches to improve their well-being and productivity. These include selecting appropriate forage crops for their diet, choosing resilient and robust animals, and revising the feeding plan to cater to their specific needs. The negative effects mean a significant decrease in the yields of forage crops, therefore affecting the bearing capacity of pastures and decreasing milk production. Heat stress, in particular, causes a decrease in dry matter intake, thus increasing the energy and protein requirements of the cow in hot environments. According to Habeeb (2020), heat causes severe economic losses in about 60% of dairy herds worldwide. Climatic effects and heat affect the fat and protein component of milk and therefore the quality of the product with repercussions on the supply chain of the processed products.

Climate change poses potential threats to the production potential of high-value cheeses such as PDO/PGI cheeses. These threats can occur through indirect impacts, such as reduced crop yields and grassland productivity for cow feeding due to rainfall deficits, and direct effects, such as increased milk loss caused by heat stress. Moreover, climate change can also have significant consequences on the sensory qualities and characteristics of the final cheese products (Vitali et al. 2019; Pagliacci and Salpina 2022).

While most studies acknowledge the significance of the impact on farmers' incomes, there is a notable scarcity of quantitative investigations and future projections specifically addressing this crucial issue. The extended food supply chain is one of the main important economic sectors in Italy, with a turnover of more than €500 billion and 3.6 million employees (The European House Ambrosetti 2019). Nevertheless, Italy relies on imported agricultural products for over 22% of its needs and depends on foreign sources for 49% of its productive inputs (Carriero et al. 2022), therefore, were exposed to exogenous shocks and vulnerabilities.

Climate change, with its increasing frequency of extreme weather events, shifting precipitation patterns, and pest infestations underscores the urgent need for adaptive strategies in agriculture.

To further support these supply chains in the future, Italy's agricultural system should focus on scaling up innovative solutions such as precision farming, drought-resistant crop varieties, climate-smart practices, efficient irrigation systems and prioritize investment in the development and adoption of disruptive cross-sectoral technologies. A recent survey among Italian PDO and PGI Protection Consortia and Producers' Associations reveal that the foremost worries regarding climate change involve drought, rising temperatures, and changes in microclimates within the production regions (Ismea-Qualivita 2023).

These considerations underline the importance of engaging both research institutions and political decision-makers, along with the active participation of all stakeholders to develop context-specific adaptations that enhance resilience, mitigate adverse impacts, and ensure the sustainability of agricultural value chains.

Interestingly, De Leo et al. (2023) provide detailed insights into 8 types of adaptation measures recommended for improving resilience across the three value chains, alongside an analysis of their cost-effectiveness. These measures encompass soil management, fertilizer application, agronomic techniques, crop protection strategies, water management practices, digitalization integration, animal welfare protocols, and advanced winemaking techniques.

Addressing the adverse impacts of climate change requires not only innovative agronomic practices but also significant financial investment in sustainable technologies and infrastructure. It is essential to adopt inclusive financing mechanisms and capitalize on funding opportunities, such as the CAP and other EU financial support programmes to create investment opportunities for sustainable business models aimed at transforming food systems. The conclusions drawn from this study emphasize that addressing challenges and fostering adaptation necessitate a strategic, long-term, contextually informed vision for the future of agriculture. This vision entails seamlessly integrating scientific insights with practical knowledge derived from diverse sources adapted and implemented in diverse regional, national, and community contexts (FAO 2022).

Data availability

The manuscript includes supporting materials, and all other datasets utilized and/or analysed in the current study can be obtained from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.



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Temperature–humidity index


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This research has been supported by the LIFE programme supported by the European Union LIFE19 CCA/IT/001257.

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G.P. was involved in conceptualization, methodology, supervision, section data curation, formal analysis, writing—reviewing and editing, and image realization. A.D.F. was responsible for conceptualization, methodology, supervision, section data curation, formal analysis, and writing—reviewing and editing. M.G., S.G., and F.L. contributed to section data curation, formal analysis, and writing—reviewing and editing. G.B. took part in funding acquisition and writing—reviewing. S.D.L. assisted with conceptualization, fruit and vegetables sector, data curation, formal analysis, and writing—reviewing and editing. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Giuseppe Pulighe or Antonella Di Fonzo.

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Pulighe, G., Di Fonzo, A., Gaito, M. et al. Climate change impact on yield and income of Italian agriculture system: a scoping review. Agric Econ 12, 23 (2024).

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