Options for future adaptation strategies

Strategies to adapt to climate change should not be seen as individual remedies since agriculture will compete for water allocation with other sectors affected by climate change. Short term adjustments should aim at optimising production without introducing major system changes, but for long-term adaptations heavier structural changes will take place to alleviate the adverse effects of climate change.

Suggested adjustments include changes in planting strategies and the use of more appropriate cultivars: long season cultivars might increase yield potential, while late cultivars might be used to prevent destruction due to heat waves and drought during the summer. However, the use of more extended growing season crops might increase seasonal irrigation requirements. In addition, with faster crop growth, farmers might tend to go for multiple cropping, also increasing water requirements.

Management practices, such as conservation tillage, drip and trickle irrigation, and irrigation scheduling are among the short-term possibilities for preserving soil moisture. Improving irrigation efficiency is a key component of combating potentially increased water requirements. It will involve reducing water losses from storage and distribution systems, proper maintenance of irrigation systems, optimising irrigation scheduling, and using water conservation techniques such as drip irrigation. Promoting such strategies by agrometeorology will be crucial since these practices, besides preserving soil moisture, will allow farmers to reduce the cost of production (Olesen and Bindi 2004).

Long-term changes include the change of land use to adapt to the new climate in order to stabilise production and to avoid strong inter-annual variability in yields.

ttis could be achieved through the substitution of existing crops with crops with a lower productivity but more stable yields (e.g., wheat replaced by pasture). For areas with increased water stress, it has further been recommended to use less water consuming and more heat resistant crops. Other measures include the change in farming systems since many farms are specialised in arable farming and, therefore, are tightly linked to local soil and climate conditions.

Changing or improving harvest insurance mechanisms to protect farmers from the economic impacts of flood or drought damage is also a necessary measure in future (Bindi and Howden 2004).

A need for further research exists with respect to spatial resolution in vulnerability mapping, technological and management-based adaptation measures, and the breeding of more drought-or heat-resistant crops.

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