Agriculture Can Adapt to Climate Change
April 23, 2014
As climate change continues to cause unusual and unpredictable weather around the world, it is creating new challenges for farmers. Drought, flooding and temperature extremes will increase as the earth’s temperatures rise 2-3 °C (3.5-5.4 °F) in the next 50 years, threatening farm productivity, decreasing harvests and augmenting pest pressures. At the same time, farmers are being tasked with producing more food for an increasing global population and to minimize greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Agriculture accounts for about 14-24 per cent of these emissions.
“Our job is to feed the world,” says Robert Carlson, president of the World Farmers Organization in a Farming First video. “Now…farmers are going to need to learn two things: one, to adapt to a changing climate [with] the help of researchers and governments, and secondly, we need to learn how to prevent greenhouse gas emissions.”
The plant science industry can play an integral role in helping farmers deal with these challenges. Scientists are developing crops tolerant to drought, salinity and other environmental stresses to adapt to changing climates. Existing herbicide-tolerant biotech crops allow for reduced or no tillage, sparing the use of farm equipment and fuel, thereby, reducing GHG emissions. The use of no-till practices and modern, targeted herbicides captures millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Biotech-derived plant traits for insect and disease resistance as well as crop protection products indirectly reduce emissions by increasing crop yields, preventing expansion of farmland into rainforests and other wildlife areas that are critical carbon sinks. All of these efforts are reducing the impact of agriculture on the environment and of climate change on agriculture.
“The weather now is changing even between the seasons and within the season,” notes Dyborn Chibonga, CEO, National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi. “We’re trying to help [farmers] understand the variability in the season and the need to adopt technology…to mitigate against climate change.”