Mediterranean Agriculture

Mediterranean climates are much-loved for their favourable conditions: not too hot, not too cold, and not too much rain. For agriculture, the Mediterranean climate poses unique challenges and opportunities. Mediterranean climate, while getting its name from the Mediterranean sea, is actually found in many other places around the world! Keep reading to learn more about Mediterranean agriculture and its characteristics.

Mediterranean Agriculture Mediterranean Agriculture

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Table of contents

    Mediterranean Agriculture Definition

    As previously stated, Mediterranean agriculture is not exclusive to the Mediterranean region but actually reflects a set of practices undertaken in the Mediterranean and climates similar to it. Under the most common climate classification system, Köppen, Mediterranean climates feature wet winters and dry, warm summers. There are some slight variations between Mediterranean climates, with some featuring hotter summers or colder winters, but overall there are no Mediterranean climates that consistently fall below-freezing temperatures.

    Mediterranean agriculture: The methods and practices of animal and plant cultivation undertaken in regions with Mediterranean climates.

    Next, let's discuss more about Mediterranean climates in detail.

    Mediterranean Agriculture Climate

    Sometimes called the dry summer temperate climate, Mediterranean climates are classified under the Köppen climate system as Cs. The subtypes are the hot-summer Mediterranean climate (Csa), warm-summer Mediterranean climate (Csb), and the rarely found cold-summer Mediterranean climate (Csb).


    When and how much precipitation an area receives is a large factor in whether or not it's classified as Mediterranean. In general, there is almost no precipitation or cloud cover during the summer months. Winter and spring months are when Mediterranean climate areas receive the vast majority of rain for the entire year. Of course, there are exceptions to the rules, and local microclimates can cause rainfall during summertime too. The lack of rainfall during summertime is the most significant limiting factor to agriculture in the Mediterranean region.


    It never gets too hot or too cold in Mediterranean climates, a big reason why people are drawn to them for living or vacation. While summer temperatures in the hottest Mediterranean regions can reach 30 degrees celsius, winters rarely get below zero except for very high altitudes.

    Mediterranean agriculture Tossa del Mar StudySmarterFig. 1 - Tossa Del Mar, Spain, has a Mediterranean climate

    Bodies of water like seas and oceans have what's called a moderating impact on coastal areas, meaning temperatures stay more stable year-round compared to inland regions. For example, areas in Central Spain far from the ocean experience much colder winters compared to coastal places along the Mediterranean Sea.

    Mediterranean Agriculture Regions

    The first practice of Mediterranean agriculture originated in the Mediterranean region, in the modern-day countries of Greece, Italy, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. As the practice of agriculture spread into areas with Mediterranean climates, so too did lessons and practices learned from the Mediterranean basin.

    Mediterranean agriculture Climate map StudySmarterFig. 2 - Areas in green are home to Mediterranean climates

    Keep reading to learn more about some major agricultural areas of the world with Mediterranean climates.

    Mediterranean Basin

    The name for the Mediterranean climate is derived from the Mediterranean Sea, and it's home to some of the oldest civilizations in the world. The area around the Mediterranean Sea is referred to as the Mediterranean basin and is one of the cradles of civilization. Ancient Greece, Egypt, and civilizations in the Levant all began cultivating crops and raising animals thousands of years ago. Some major countries in this region include Italy, Morocco, Spain, Greece, Turkey, and France.

    West Coast of the United States

    Much of the West Coast of the United States has a Mediterranean climate. This encompasses the US state of California, Oregon, and Washington. However, the primary agricultural area is within California's Central Valley and Southern California. This area is home to an abundance of fruit and vegetable production and viticulture.

    Cape Region of South Africa

    The Cape area of South Africa encompasses most of the Western and Southwestern portions of the country. It's a large producer of wine and citrus, and South Africa is the fourth largest producer of grapefruit in the world.1 Its wine, in particular, has become famous, following in the footsteps of the storied winemaking traditions of the Mediterranean basin.

    Central Chile

    Chile stretches many lines of latitude, meaning its climate ranges from desert to tundra, with almost everything in between! Central Chile has a Mediterranean climate, and very few of the crops grown today in the region are native to the region. Grapes, olives, and wheat all made their way to Chile by way of Spanish colonialists. Today the area grows a wide array of crops, aided by irrigation during the summertime and growing different crops depending on the season.

    Southwest Australia

    Compared to other parts of Australia, the Mediterranean climate of Southwest Australia allows for the year-round production of crops. Like other Mediterranean climate regions, it has also developed a thriving and world-renowned winemaking sector. In addition to citrus fruit, grapes are the most commonly grown crops in Southwest Australia.

    Mediterranean Agriculture Crops


    A feature of the Mediterranean basin since antiquity, grapes cultivation thrives in Mediterranean climates. Their slow maturation makes them prized for their qualities in winemaking as well. Today, vineyards are a ubiquitous feature of the landscapes in Mediterranean countries.

    Mediterranean agriculture Vineyard StudySmarterFig. 3 - Vineyard in Piedmont, Italy

    Winemaking has spread to other Mediterranean climate regions owing to how well grapes are grown there. Grapes are considered a permanent crop in Mediterranean agriculture because they can withstand long summertime droughts without intense irrigation. In addition to being eaten fresh or turned into wine, grapes may also be dried into raisins.


    Perhaps no other crop exemplifies Mediterranean agriculture more than the humble olive. Artwork from thousands of years ago features olive trees, and their branches were used as symbolic headgear in Ancient Rome. Olives are native to the Mediterranean basin and today are used to make oil and processed to be consumed on their own. Olives are not native to the Americas and, owing to European colonization, were brought over and are now found in the Mediterranean climate regions of California and Central Chile. Olive oil is a crucial ingredient in many cuisines in the Mediterranean basin. Like grapes, olives are a permanent crop and live through the summer droughts in Mediterranean climates.


    Wheat and barley are other prominent crops in Mediterranean climates, particularly in the Mediterranean basin itself, where EU subsidies have boosted wheat production. Because these grains are traditionally planted in rainier and colder climates, they are winter crops for Mediterranean climates. Wheat is usually planted in the autumn and harvested by the screen to make use of strong rainfalls and milder temperatures.


    Traditionally grown in tropical areas with more abundant rainfall and heat, advances in irrigation and fertilization have made it possible for citrus to grow commercially in Mediterranean climates. Citrus plants have very little tolerance for frost, so they are limited to being grown in the warmest areas.

    Due to stress on current crops due to climate change, farmers in the hottest areas of Mediterranean climates are adapting and planting crops once unimaginable for the region. In Sicily, farmers are starting to cultivate tropical fruits like mangoes and bananas. While these crops thrive in hot temperatures, they also need much more water. With climate change making droughts more common, it poses additional stresses on water supplies by having to irrigate tropical fruit crops.

    Environmental Impacts of Mediterranean Agriculture

    The climatic conditions of Mediterranean areas present unique challenges and impacts stemming from the cultivation of plants and raising animals in the region. Let's discuss some impacts next.

    Water Usage

    Due to the long dry season during summertime, irrigation is essential for some crops that aren't naturally adapted to long dry conditions. Because groundwater supplies are generally at their lowest in summer, not being replenished by rainwater, irrigating crops puts extra strain on those supplies. Some crops, like olives, are adapted to these conditions being native to the Mediterranean basin, but others, like citrus fruit and require more extensive irrigation during dry seasons to continue to grow well.

    Habitat Destruction

    Owing to the rugged terrain of most Mediterranean climate areas, lots of land has to be cleared to make suitable farms. This process often includes the uprooting of native plants so another crop can be planted. Because less land is available due to geologic reasons, Mediterranean farming is also much more intensive. High levels of fertilizers, machinery, and labour are needed to get as much production out of the land as possible. All of this leads to more harmful effects on habitats because agrochemicals have more opportunities to enter water supplies and impact wildlife.

    Mediterranean Agriculture - Key takeaways

    • Mediterranean agriculture is the practice of crop cultivation undertaken in areas with Mediterranean climates.
    • Named after the Mediterranean sea, places with Mediterranean climates have warm, dry summers and mild, rainy winters in general.
    • Major crops grown in Mediterranean climates include olives, grapes, citrus fruit, and some grains.
    • The challenge of keeping crops irrigated during dry summers is a major environmental impact stemming from farming in Mediterranean areas.
    • Most Mediterranean agriculture is intensive farming, owing to its annual crop rotations, mechanization, and agrochemical usage.


    2. Fig. 1: Tossa Del Mar ( by JohhnyOneSpeed ( is licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 (
    3. Fig. 2: Mediterranean climate map ( by Maphobbyist ( is licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 (
    4. Fig. 3: Vineyard Piedmont ( by Megan Mallen ( is licensed by CC BY 2.0 (
    Frequently Asked Questions about Mediterranean Agriculture

    Where is Mediterranean agriculture practised?

    Mediterranean agriculture was first practised in the Mediterranean basin but is now practised across the world in areas with climates very similar to the Mediterranean basin.

    What is Mediterranean agriculture?

    Mediterranean agriculture is the practice of crop cultivation in areas with Mediterranean climates.

    Why is Mediterranean agriculture intensive?

    Owing to limitations in land use and a desire to grow year-round, Mediterranean agriculture involves the intensive use of land. Irrigation, mechanization, and agrochemical usage are all needed to get as much production out of the land as possible.

    What is the biggest factor that limits agriculture in the Mediterranean?

    The biggest limiting factor on agriculture in the Mediterranean basin and Mediterranean climates is the amount of rainfall. Summers have long droughts, so it needs either plants that are drought-resistant or the use of artificial irrigation to allow more plants to thrive.

    What is grown in Mediterranean agriculture?

    Some major crops grown include grapes, olives, citrus fruit, and grains like wheat.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Which of the following describes a "Mediterranean climate?"

    Which is the major limiting factor of growing crops in Mediterranean regions?

    How do bodies of water impact the temperature of surrounding areas?

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    Team Mediterranean Agriculture Teachers

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