Sunday, February 24, 2013

Fact Sheet: Adaptation and mitigation strategies to climate change for the agriculture sector

by Yolande Agard, CARDI:
Climate change, in this internet-savvy world, is no longer just the new buzz words. As a matter of fact, it is now widely recognized as one of mankind’s greatest challenges in the 21st Century. It is now an accepted fact that if left unchecked, climate change can seriously harm economies, societies and ecological systems around the world, especially in developing countries.

According to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report (IPCC, 2007), the best estimates from climate models indicate that the global average surface temperature will rise between 1.8 ̊C to 4 ̊C by the year 2099 depending on how much the concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases increase.

The Caribbean Region is already vulnerable to risks arising from climate change. Current climate information suggest that in future, the Region will be hotter, drier, prone to extremes of floods and droughts, experience more frequent cyclonic storms and be affected by salt water intrusion. This future climate is likely to result in weather conditions which will be particularly hazardous to the agriculture sector in the Region.

Agriculture is not just a victim; it is also a significant cause of climate change. Studies have shown that agricultural activities are directly responsible for 10 – 12% of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, excluding emissions resulting from fuel use and fertiliser production (CAT, 2011). 

Also, agriculture may share a greater percentage of global emissions if the clearance of forests to make way for crops and livestock were to be included. From the foregoing, it is clear that as a part of the problem, agriculturalists are perfectly poised to play an important and critical role in mitigating climate change.

Simpson (2010) noted that climate change is likely to affect all aspects of agriculture and food production, which includes crop production, livestock production and fisheries in the Caribbean Region. 

Crop production is likely to be affected in multiple ways, including carbon fertilisation due to increased CO2 levels; positive yield response to increased temperature and longer growing seasons by heat-loving crops such as melons, sweet potato and okra; negative yield response by some grain crops as increased heat accelerates the plants development cycle and reduces the duration of the grain-filling period; increased evapotranspiration and water use due to increased temperature.

There are seven (7) primary strategies that can form part of a combined climate variability/change adaptation programme. They include:

  • Changing planting/harvest dates and varieties, which are effective and low cost options
  • Selecting varieties with greater drought and heat tolerance
  • Increase use of irrigation, fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide may be necessary to achieve maximum benefits from increased atmospheric CO2
  • Changing crop species or livestock produced
  • Investments in new irrigation or drainage systems or other capital items, including water harvesting and storage facilities Changing soil water management strategies to include soil organic matter enhancement and the use of mulch
  • Changing tillage practices
  • Developing and implementing improved Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programmes, including the use of Protected Agricultural systems
Management of forestry and agricultural activities is regarded as an important option for greenhouse gases (GHG) mitigation. Activities in these sectors can reduce and avoid the release into the atmosphere of the three most important GHGs, which are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

As with adaptation strategies, there are mitigation strategies that can be employed. They can include:
  • Afforestation
  • Improved forest management and protection
  • Soil carbon sequestration
  • Agricultural methane and nitrous mitigation
  • Biofuels offsets
Look out for the next article on ‘Weather-related forecasting models and pest management in agriculture’.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai