What 2016’s climate impact means for agriculture

Agriculture is central to the world. The African continent alone relies on it for most of its employment. But food and clothing as a whole are entirely the end results of the agricultural industry. No one can afford to ignore the influence it has on the world. Unfortunately, like so much of the world, agriculture is deeply affected by climate change. Crops, animals, water and so on are all essential to successful farms, for example. Without these in good condition and if systems are unable to support their proper functioning, the world would turn into a spiral of chaos. To that end, it’s important to consider what occurred in 2016 that can help develop strategies for the future.

The hottest year

As noted, climate change has had a massive impact on the world, particularly in the last year. It was the hottest recorded year, NASA said, since the previous year! This can have dramatic effect on everything, but in this case the concern is agriculture.

The American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) noted what this kind of effect means.

“Agriculture and fisheries are highly dependent on the climate. Increases in temperature and carbon dioxide (CO2) can increase some crop yields in some places. But to realize these benefits, nutrient levels, soil moisture, water availability, and other conditions must also be met.”

Any changes in droughts and floods’ frequency or severity poses challenges for farmers and threatens food safety. Warmer temperatures of oceans and lakes – any water body that contains life for fishing – can cause marine life habitat ranges to change, disrupting entire ecosystems. In summary, says the EPA: “climate change could make it more difficult to grow crops, raise animals, and catch fish in the same ways and same places as we have done in the past.”   

Going forward, more aggressive systems have to be put in place to protect individual farms and fishing industries. It’s hard to ignore these changes occurring, with even something as famous as The Great Barrier Reef dying, due to rising temperatures. As National Geographic reports:

“What’s happening in Australia is part of a global trend. Over the last year, about 12 percent of the world’s reefs have bleached, due to El Niño and climate change. Scientists have predicted that nearly half of these reefs (more than 4,600 square miles or 12,000 square kilometers, or more than five percent of reefs) could disappear forever. That warming trend is expected to continue through the year, leading to what may be the longest global coral bleaching event in history.”

Water is a major fact of life. Any changes to it, whether in clear lakes, dams or the sea, can cause widespread devastation. Farms and those who are part of the agricultural industry must begin making cutbacks and setting up all kinds of policies to help minimise the impact this drastic change could have.

How do we go forward?

The latest Food and Agriculture Organization report pointed out an important step. As Relief Web summarises: “The report provides evidence that adoption of ‘climate-smart’ practices, such as the use of nitrogen-efficient and heat-tolerant crop varieties, zero-tillage and integrated soil fertility management would boost productivity and farmers’ incomes.”

Creating such opportunities itself requires an influx of cash. Even here, there are options. For example, farm owners and business people involved in agriculture should consider agricultural finance. This can help boost the groundwork for more work and better production, letting individual small holdings adopt climate-smart policies and practices.  

Vermicomposting: Farmers should consider all options, even if they sound a little strange. For example, vermicomposting is “the product or process of composting using various worms, usually red wigglers, white worms, and other earthworms to create a heterogeneous mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and vermicast.”

The end result has been consistently shown to contain lower levels of contaminants, while retaining a higher saturation of nutrients than do organic materials before vermicomposting. It also contains water-soluble nutrients making it a nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner.

Planning: Knowing how the world has changed so dramatically, it’s time to put things on paper before implementation. Instead of reacting, farmers should act before. Working on the worst case scenario can often mean the best outcome.  

Hydroponic: Soil-less gardening is not a new concept, but it is one that deserves more consideration. As Hydroponics.net points out: “The growth rate on a hydroponic plant is 30-50 percent faster than a soil plant, grown under the same conditions. The yield of the plant is also greater.”

All of these are better for the environment and help create a firmer foundation going forward.