Climate change is seen by many as the defining challenge of our time. You have no doubt heard about the impact it can have on our water levels and living conditions but perhaps less about something as important as anything; our food supply.
Farmers have been crucial to the proper functioning of our society for generations. The growing of produce and raising of livestock requires optimal conditions, yet with the increased cases of extreme heat, floods and droughts our farmers, who have been adapting for one reason or another since the dawn of agriculture, have been thrown more curveballs than normal.
Below are 3 examples of challenges and adaptions our farmers face due to climate change.
- FROST PROTECTION
THE ISSUE: Caused by warming winters in some areas, crops can be tricked into blooming early leaving them vulnerable to frost damage for an extended period. In 2012 for example, apple crops in New York State bloomed 4 weeks earlier than the previous record which resulted in losing half the crop and millions of dollars worth of loss to occur due to frost.
HOW TO ADAPT: The industry has adopted frost risk warning systems while growers have begun to install misting systems or wind machines for frost protection. Apple breeders are also looking into engineering the genetics of new apple breeds that are not as easily tricked into blooming early.
THE ISSUE: Instead of occasional and consistent rainfall amounts that we had historically experienced, nowadays farmers are dealing with smaller periods of heavy rain causing flooding. These floods can erode soil and prevent any crops from growing. The impact of this is seen by dairy farmers who have been forced to use up their surplus feed from previous years to sustain their cows. When this runs out, their only remaining option is to purchase feeds from other locations, driving up their production costs and lowering profits.
HOW TO ADAPT: Growing alternative small grains such as Triticale (a field crop which is a cross between Rye and Wheat) gives farmers another option to sustain their livestock and manage their risk.
- CHANGING SEASON DURATIONS
THE ISSUE: Certain crops not getting enough time in a given season to bloom and grow properly.
HOW TO ADAPT: A longer growing season and a little hotter weather can be beneficial for some varieties of crops (i.e. several different varieties of grapes, tomatoes, peppers) but harm others (broccoli, carrots, lettuce) so the best way for a grower to manage their long term risk is to think carefully about what type of crops to grow based on their location and weather conditions.
The experience of adapting to climate change may be different for each farm yet many of the world-leading agriculture industries all face new risk, challenges and opportunities. It is now more important than ever to THANK A FARMER!
Please contact us with any questions you may have about this or any other topic related to your insurance.