Farming in a changing climate

As you know it’s been a year of weird weather in many parts of the world. What can farmers do?

Fiona Harvey and Rebecca Smithers as the Guardian tell us how bad it was for British farmers in 2012. You might want to read that article because, towards the end, Ms Harvey and Ms Smithers talk about how farming all comes down to money. The countryside can be very beautiful but farmers farm because it’s their livelihood.

If you’re planning your farm for 2013 what are you going to do? What have you already started to do? If you sowed winter wheat, I hope you managed to get machinery onto your land to sow and that after that, your seeds weren’t drowned. If you put tups to your sheep, I hope they survived the mud.

My fellow blogger Graham Coghill at Science or Not? tells us how clear it is, by now, that the world’s climates are changing. My mother (a farmer’s daughter) used to say, ‘Things move slowly on the land.’ That’s particularly obvious when the crop is a long-term perennial such as orchard fruit. Here’s a film about growing cherries in England in 2012. But for any kind of farming, you have to plan ahead.

I’m looking for information about how farmers are planning for 2013 and for the unpredictable weather of years to come. Please let me know if you find anything. Here’s what was talked about at the Oxford Farming Conference last week. Plenty of interesting information there, but pardon me for saying that climate change seems to have been an elephant in the room!

Perhaps there’ll be more discussion at NIAB Information Farm’s conference on ‘growing whatever the weather’ next June. I’ll be watching. Meanwhile, the same people promote ‘solutions to the challenge of growing crops in different climatic conditions.’

About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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4 Responses to Farming in a changing climate

  1. Finn Holding says:

    Your comment about climate change being the elephant in the room appears worryingly apposite. I had a conversation with my daughter a few days ago about how humans are very good at wreaking havoc and then learning to cope with it after the event, but we’re useless at planning for change… especially if it involves spending a few quid.

    It’s a mindset that has to change, and fast, for the farmers and the rest of us if we’re to avoid the more devastating consequences of climate change. But I fear our species isn’t clever enough to adapt in time. Natural selection?

    • argylesock says:

      I agree, and try not to get too discouraged about it. Humans have survived all sorts before… one thing we can do is to keep saying sensible things. If this blog causes a few people to rethink, that’ll be a contribution. I suppose.

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