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Producers adapt to climate change

Yhe Keystone Agricultural Producers AGM reported producers are puttng more emphasis on "nature-based solutions"
wp winter feild
University of Winnipeg climate expert Danny Blair highlighted trends showing more extreme weather like last summer’s heat wave and drought. Farming will need to adapt.

WESTERN PRODUCER — Climate change will force farmers to adapt what and how they grow, but they’ve already been doing that, Keystone Agricultural Producers heard at its annual meeting.

For instance, the growing emphasis on “nature-based solutions” and “environmental goods and services” is encouraging farmers to grow crops in a more sustainable manner, said Langruth, Man., farmer Kristine Tapley.

“That’s where we can really shine,” said Tapley, who raises cattle and works as an agronomist with Ducks Unlimited.

She and long-time farm organization, policy and industry leader Ted Menzies spoke about farmer adaptation after a chilling presentation from University of Winnipeg climate expert Danny Blair.

He highlighted trends showing more extreme weather like last summer’s heat wave and drought. Farming will need to adapt.

“We need to manage our water more efficiently than we already do. We need to do research and innovation to try to take advantage of those opportunities (that arise from a warmer climate) and minimize those risks.”

Menzies said farmers have been adapting to the environment for decades and will need to continue to be flexible. Instead of the “recreational tillage,” once common in his part of southern Alberta, zero-till is now standard. Soybeans are now a common sight and there’s a soybean crusher close to his farm.

“We as farmers have seen the changes,” said Menzies. “We’re going to be growing different crops.”

With other parts of the world facing more severe consequences of climate change, and the warmer climate predicted for the Prairies offering the chance to increase production, farmers have a chance to provide more of the world’s food.

“We need to recognize that we have the responsibility to not just adapt, but the responsibility to provide food for those regions and those countries that will not be able to adapt,” said Menzies.

Tapley said drought has hit feed supplies, so farmers are willing to experiment with what can work in a changing environment. That openness to new feeds and methods will probably become more important.

“It could mean feeding byproducts and finding other feed sources and thinking about ways to be really creative and adaptable.”

Menzies said there are many areas in which farms can become more sustainable, as in proper and precise fertilizer management, which is becoming easier with new technologies.

Tapley said recent research has shown that there are still many acres in Canada that aren’t being farmed sustainably, so there is lots of potential to improve agriculture’s environmental impact.

New technologies and growing systems that better fit with nature can be complementary in adapting to the coming climate changes.

“They can go together,” said Tapley.

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