Expansion of Agriculture in Northern Cold-Climate Regions: A Cross-Sectoral Perspective on Opportunities and Challenges

Adrian Unc*, Daniel Altdorff, Evgeny Abakumov, Sina Adl, Snorri Baldursson, Michel Bechtold, Douglas J. Cattani, Les G. Firbank, Stéphanie Grand, María Guðjónsdóttir, Cynthia Kallenbach, Amana J. Kedir, Pengfei Li, David B. McKenzie, Debasmita Misra, Hirohiko Nagano, Deborah A. Neher, Jyrki Niemi, Maren Oelbermann, Jesper Overgård LehmannDavid Parsons, Sylvie Quideau, Anarmaa Sharkhuu, Bożena Smreczak, Jaana Sorvali, Jeremiah D. Vallotton, Joann K. Whalen, Erika H. Young, Mingchu Zhang, Nils Borchard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Agriculture in the boreal and Arctic regions is perceived as marginal, low intensity and inadequate to satisfy the needs of local communities, but another perspective is that northern agriculture has untapped potential to increase the local supply of food and even contribute to the global food system. Policies across northern jurisdictions target the expansion and intensification of agriculture, contextualized for the diverse social settings and market foci in the north. However, the rapid pace of climate change means that traditional methods of adapting cropping systems and developing infrastructure and regulations for this region cannot keep up with climate change impacts. Moreover, the anticipated conversion of northern cold-climate natural lands to agriculture risks a loss of up to 76% of the carbon stored in vegetation and soils, leading to further environmental impacts. The sustainable development of northern agriculture requires local solutions supported by locally relevant policies. There is an obvious need for the rapid development of a transdisciplinary, cross-jurisdictional, long-term knowledge development, and dissemination program to best serve food needs and an agricultural economy in the boreal and Arctic regions while minimizing the risks to global climate, northern ecosystems and communities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number663448
JournalFrontiers in Sustainable Food Systems
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Unc, Altdorff, Abakumov, Adl, Baldursson, Bechtold, Cattani, Firbank, Grand, Guðjónsdóttir, Kallenbach, Kedir, Li, McKenzie, Misra, Nagano, Neher, Niemi, Oelbermann, Overgård Lehmann, Parsons, Quideau, Sharkhuu, Smreczak, Sorvali, Vallotton, Whalen, Young, Zhang and Borchard.

Other keywords

  • Arctic agriculture
  • boreal agriculture
  • crops and agricultural practices
  • land-use conversion
  • northern soils
  • policies for agriculture expansion
  • social and cultural drivers


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