Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Farming and Climate Change

As we gear up for a couple of hot days in Connecticut and around the country, scientists and farmers are considering the effects of these higher temperatures on local and global agriculture.   The American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and Soil Science Society of America recently published a “Position Statement on Climate Change”.  The potential changes in climate are “significant for the practice of agriculture and land management.”  Climate change linked floods, heatwaves and droughts have resulted in crop failure around the world.  The report also acknowledges that agriculture, worldwide, contributes 10-15% of the world’s main greenhouse gases, and that agricultural practices must begin to account for their emissions.  To adapt to climate change, the report recommends that farmers increase crop diversity, employ drip irrigation to conserve water, and use integrated pest and soil management, specifically ensuring soil health by conserving and enriching the organic content of soils.  

Other reports such as this one have identified organic agriculture as a key part of responding to climate change.  Because organic agriculture reduces or eliminates nutrient depletion in the soil and increases soil organic matter content, soil is able to store more water (making crops more resilient to drought).  Additionally much of agriculture's contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions are from the production and transport of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  Organic agriculture is a vital tool in mitigating climate change and in reacting. 

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