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Agriculture This Week - Science needed to meet climate change

The year 2050 may seem to be far off from the perspective of 2017, but three decades in the grand scheme of things is a blink of the eye.

The year 2050 may seem to be far off from the perspective of 2017, but three decades in the grand scheme of things is a blink of the eye.

And that is what makes the warnings being talked of in terms of climate change three to five decades ahead so concerning.

One such concern came out recently in a Western Producer story. (Ian) “Mauro, a geography professor who is part of the Prairie Climate Centre in Winnipeg told farmers at Keystone Agricultural Producers’ annual meeting Jan. 25 that the Canadian Prairies will see even more extreme temperature increases than the world average because they are located in the centre of a continent and not moderated by oceans. Instead of the 2C average increase in temperatures forecast for the planet, the Prairies will see 3.4 C, according to forecasting models,” the story detailed.

“That will have many impacts. Beyond just the average increase, it will also produce many more days of scorching temperatures, Mauro said.

“There are now only 10 to 11 days of higher than 30 C per year, but this could increase to 50 to 54 by 2050-80.”

Farmers need to let that sink in a little.

Canola is now the number one crop in terms of returns and acres across much of the Canadian Prairies, a crop which does not respond well to extreme high temperatures, especially during the crucial flowering stage.

“Hot days (28-30°C and up) and warm nights (16°C and up) from bud to mid-flowering stages can have a significant effect on canola yield,” details

So what happens to canola production if we see two months of plus 30 temperatures?

The likely answer is that canola becomes a less attractive crop.

Now some might hold out hope Premier Brad Wall is smarter than a growing legion of scientists worldwide, when through the Lieutenant Governor in Saskatchewan’s 2016 Throne Speech he stated : “It is troubling that today, there are some in this country who, given the opportunity, would shut down major parts of Saskatchewan’s economy and put thousands of hard-working Saskatchewan people out of work, all in the name of some misguided dogma that has no basis in reality,” in response to climate change.

But, while I might allow for discussion regarding the reasons for change, I am firmly on the side of science that it is occurring.

And it will be the efforts of science in the years ahead which will be required to help Canadian Prairie farmers being productive.

While some agricultural areas of the world may actually become far less productive in terms of producing food for the world population, Canada can stay productive by adapting. Crops such as corn, already making inroads, can gain importance with more heat units to improve growth potential.

The key will be plant breeding varieties for new conditions here, and farmers evolving in the face of whatever climate change brings.

Calvin Daniels is Editor with Yorkton This Week.

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