How Climate Change Is Affecting Agriculture
The world is beginning to wake up to the harsh reality of climate change. As temperatures rise and weather becomes increasingly unpredictable, farmers across the globe are looking for solutions to help offset the effects of this crisis. This shouldn’t come as a shock.
From tiny plants and insects to apex predators and humankind, climate change threatens to impact all of us in unprecedented ways—specifically regarding our food. The farming industry is already starting to feel the effects of climate change.
It’s crucial to educate ourselves on what this crisis means for agriculture. Explore some of the challenges climate change presents for farmers. Moreover, uncover what we can still do to improve the health of our planet and keep our crops intact.
Challenges for Farmers
Farmers are responsible for ensuring that all of us have enough food. But a healthy and stable crop supply is necessary to achieve this. With the effects of climate change accelerating every year, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to ensure a predictable harvest. Many believe that the most significant issue climate change poses to agriculture is rising temperatures.
Our planet warming up is indeed a problem. But it’s only scratching the surface. In reality, there’s a grocery list of other hurdles that climate change is throwing in the path of farmers. We’ve taken some time to describe some of the most prominent below.
#1. Changes in Precipitation Patterns
Crops are the currency of the agricultural industry. For crops to produce at a rate that keeps up with supply and demand, they need a few things:
- Sunlight (plant food)
- Ideal Soil Conditions (plant home)
- Rainwater and Irrigation (plant vitamins)
These things combine to create the perfect elixir for healthy plant life. But for it to work, each part of the equation must be balanced. When one of these things is thrown out of whack, it can derail a healthy crop harvest.
With rainfall patterns already shifting globally, we can expect to see increasingly intense periods of rainfall, followed by more extended periods of drought. What does this mean for agriculture? To start with, producing healthy crops in inadequate numbers will prove to be quite the challenge.
It might also mean crop shortages and a hike in farm irrigation equipment supply prices.
#2. Changes in Seasonal Temperatures
Climate change is also impacting seasonal temperatures. This, too, poses a challenge for farmers all over the world. Recent projections show that the intense heat we’ve been experiencing will only worsen if things keep going as they are.
This means there will be fewer cool days during the summer, so crops won’t get respite from the heat. In many cases, this means they won’t be able to recover from the harsh temperatures. As a result, there will be a deficit in healthy plants when it’s time to harvest. Plus, this likely means shorter winters.
This drastically impacts crops that thrive in the fall and winter months. The seasons we’ve used to determine how to grow crops for centuries will become far less predictable. In turn, it’ll be more challenging to ensure stable seasons for the various crops the agriculture industry depends on to thrive.
The Impact of Climate Change on the Land
Unpredictable temperatures and rainfall are significant issues for the agricultural industry. But it’s also more complicated than that. Because temperatures are rising and weather patterns are becoming less predictable, the agricultural sector is experiencing the adverse effects of things like:
#1. Frequent Flooding
With heavier periods of rainfall, agricultural regions are experiencing more floods, which causes a decline in crop yields and, in some instances, total harvest loss.
These floods directly impact crop yields. They’re also causing more indirect issues, such as:
- Accelerated soil erosion.
- Water pollution and equipment loss.
- Irrigation system malfunctions.
- Damage to essential infrastructure.
#2. Changes in Crop Viability
Since the day we learned to grow our food, humans have chosen the crops they grow according to the conditions of their immediate surroundings. This makes sense.
After all, planting crops that have evolved to thrive in your specific environment almost always guarantees a successful harvest. But with climate change shaking things up, some crops are no longer thriving in the same fields we’ve been growing them in for years.
#3. Pests, Pathogens, and Weeds—Oh My!
Climate change also alters which insects, weeds, and diseases thrive in specific environments. For instance, an invasive weed that thrives in hot, humid climates could impact crop fields up north if temperatures increase enough.
The same rule applies to pests and diseases that affect plant life. This is just another example of how climate change will impact agriculture. Moreover, it shows how farmers will have to adapt their strategies to leverage better yields in the years to come.
We understand that climate change will inevitably impact how the agricultural industry approaches crop growth and harvest. Most of the issues farmers face primarily revolve around rising temperatures, rainfall, and overall changes in the landscape.
But industrial elements are also pushing the agricultural industry in the wrong direction and exacerbating the effects of climate change. Some of these elements include:
#1. Soil Degradation
Modern cropping systems strip soil of organic matter and crucial nutrients for most of the year. As a result, crops can’t form complex rooting systems.
It also causes:
- Reduced water retention in soil (worsening impact from droughts).
- An increased likelihood of soil erosions and pollution (exacerbating impact from floods).
#2. Chemical Output
The modern farming industry relies heavily on fertilizers and pesticides to ensure the cleanliness of their crops. As climate change worsens, these things will become more costly and hard to come by. In turn, soil erosion will become more common. As a result, we can expect an increase in pest infestations.
What Can Be Done About It?
Climate change is already impacting the agricultural industry. As a result, farmers across the globe have to educate themselves and adjust the processes they’ve always relied upon to help them achieve optimal harvests.
Now that we’re starting to understand the issue, the agricultural industry needs to start playing an active role in offsetting the alarming effects of climate change. Educating ourselves on how the climate crisis impacts this vital industry is an excellent place to start. Hopefully, this comprehensive overview sheds some light on the topic.