Climate change is having widespread impacts on global agricultural production. According to Andrea Campher, risk and disaster manager at Agri SA, no agricultural commodity is safe from global warming.
Agriculture, she explains, is also the sector considered most vulnerable to changing weather. Campher holds a master’s degree in environmental law and governance, which focused on climate adaptation in the agricultural sector.
While irrigation farmers normally have the benefit of using irrigation in areas to water their crops, farmers practising rain-fed agriculture are more exposed.
“Rain-fed agriculture, which is one of Africa’s main agricultural types, is affected by drought conditions and even flooding. It is very dependent on favourable weather,” Campher says.
Strategies to reduce the impact
According to Campher, despite this stark reality, there are strategies farmers can implement to reduce the impact of climate change on their agricultural crops.
“Some of the options include water-saving techniques, tillage, and regenerative farming. Then [there is] also technology and drought-resistant crops.”
Campher advises farmers to seek innovative ways to adapt to changing weather patterns. “Early warning systems are also good practice that farmers can look at to make sure they are up to date with the latest weather.”
Here are five strategies farmers can implement to help combat climate change.
1. Practice water-saving techniques
Conserving water use is vital to any farm, particularly in times of drought. According to a World Bank report, storing water will be vital to adapt to climate change.
Farmers can practice water conservation by installing better watering systems. For example, instead of using a traditional overhead spraying method, makes use of a drip irrigation method.
Other options include storing rainwater and better optimising watering times.
2. Consider drought-resistant crops
If you farm in an area that does not receive a lot of rainfall, you should consider growing crops that are ideal for drought-prone regions. Crops that are native to your region will be more likely to succeed in natural weather conditions. Drought-tolerant crops like sweet potatoes, peppers, and believe it or not, some tomato varieties.
3. To till or not to till
Tilling is the process of churning the top layer of soil to prepare the field for planting. While it is used to aerate soil and control weeds, it comes at the cost of soil health. In a no-till system, seeds are planted directly into undisturbed soil, resulting in numerous environmental and climate benefits.
The benefits of no-till farming include a better water-holding capacity of the soil, improved soil health, less soil erosion and more.
4. Move closer to technology
Technology is helping farmers combat climate change. Across the world, agricultural technologies are helping farmers calculate soil moisture, crop health etc.
Agricultural biotechnology is another buzzword, which involves genetically engineering living organisms, or parts of organisms, to make, modify or improve plants. Amongst others, the benefits of biotechnological solutions include improving soil structure, and greater tolerance to climate stress.
5. Early weather warning systems
The weather has become more unpredictable than ever before, making it difficult for farmers to rely on traditional and indigenous knowledge in their decision-making.
Early weather warning systems are key to farmers building resilience against severe weather patterns, which is why such systems can help farmers cope with and adapt to climate change.
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