Agriculture and Climate Change
Have you noticed that the seasons are behaving differently over the past few years? Instead of mild summers are you experiencing temperatures 10-15 degrees higher? Maybe you have kept that winter coat in storage longer than you normally would. Most of the population is aware that our climate has been changing. An important issue to consider is how will this affect our food production?
Agriculture stakeholders review everything from precipitation to CO2 levels when evaluating climate change. Recent studies indicate other items such as flooding and droughts, as well as changes in the amount of heat stress can create a number of unpredictable issues. These include pest and pathogen outbreak, or wildfires. The consequences of climate change on agriculture stressors can alter the outcome of production because each one is connected to the other.
Most ecosystems will likely experience an increase in temperature which will cause the growing season to lengthen. Although this sounds encouraging, it will also increase the chances of severe drought and soil evaporation rates. Because of the variables involved, it’s too difficult to predict exactly how much the temperature will change or how long a season may last. Temperature increases correspond with precipitation which also modifies the climate and rate of growth in agriculture.
Rainfall can change the rate at which soil evaporates and erodes, and can limit our water resources. Precipitation will vary from region to region but extreme precipitation events are predicted to increase. This means that regions at higher latitudes may see an increase in water while mid-latitudes will continue to become drier. There is no guarantee for food production even if we can provide the necessary water. Crops rely on our atmosphere to assist with the process and if there is not a balance within regions experiencing a climate change, they will fail.
A rise in the amount of pollution will likely limit crop growth. The lower levels of the atmosphere are affected by both temperature and emissions. It is likely that ozone concentrations will increase as the climate changes. Another change in the atmosphere is a higher concentration of CO2. CO2 is shaped by humans and an increase can act as a fertilizer. While this will initially have a positive impact on crops, other stressors such as rainfall can negate any benefits.
The effects of climate change on the world’s agriculture are not only determined by the factors stated above, but also on our ability to adapt to the changes. Farmers, agriculture companies, and researchers must consider the impact of all aspects of climate change around the world. At this time most countries are able to monitor a spectrum of changes to the ecosystem but cannot possibly quantify all influences on a global scale.