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Agriculture is perhaps the sector where the effects of climate on productivity and operations are most obviously felt. Quite often we get seasons with too much or too little rain, too much or too little heat, a spring thaw that arrives too late or a frost that arrives too early.

Warmer year-round temperatures and greater variability and predictability of precipitation, particularly in the winter months, will present farmers with new opportunities and new challenges.

The opportunities

 

(Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

(Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

Warmer temperatures and earlier and longer frost-free periods (longer by as much as five weeks) will extend the grazing season and increase the potential yield of heat-loving crops such as corn, soybeans, and tomatoes. It is also possible that farmers may cultivate these crops farther north, depending on the suitability of the soil and the frequency and severity of drought. In southern Ontario, the potential for growing specialty fruits and vegetables may increase.



Impacts of climate change on agriculture

The challenges

Less rainfall at different times could mean farmers would need more irrigation in southwestern Ontario, particularly on drought-prone soils and for shallow-rooted crops such as potatoes. Milder winters with less consistent snow cover are likely to lead to an increase in injury damage to over-wintering crops in some areas.

(Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

(Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

Did you know?
Adopting practices such as no-till farming, can reduce fuel and labour requirements, soil erosion from both wind and water, and investment in capital while at the same time increasing long-term productivity.

References

Smith, J.V., Lavender, B., Auld, H., Broadhurst, D., and Bullock, T., 1998: Adapting to climate variability and change in Ontario; in Volume IV of the Canada Country Study, Climate Impacts and Adaptation; Environment Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, 117 p.



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