Farmers have always had to adapt to the vagaries of weather, whether on weekly, seasonal, or annual timescales. They will undoubtedly continue to adapt to the changing climate in the coming decades, applying a variety of agronomic techniques, such as adjusting the timing of planting and harvesting operations, substituting cultivars, and ultimately changing the entire cropping system.
However, it is important to remember that farming systems have never been completely adapted even to the current climate (witness the recurrent effects of droughts and floods on various agricultural regions around the world). Hence, it seems unreasonable to expect perfect adaptation in the future to changing climate conditions. Some adaptations will likely be successful (e.g., change in planting dates to avoid heat stress), while other attempted adaptations (e.g., changing cultivars) may not always be effective in avoiding the negative effects of droughts or floods on crop and livestock production (Figure 10.10). There are numerous social constraints to adaptation, as
Fargo, ND Glasgow, MT Boise, ID
No adaptation Adaptation
Dodge CIty, KS North Platte, NE Goodland, KS
Figure 10.10 Percent yield changes with and without adaptation under the Canadian Climate Centre climate change scenario in the 2030s. Spring wheat with change of planting date (top). Winter wheat with change of cultivar (bottom). (From Tubiello, F. Personal communication, 2003.)
well, some of which have been highlighted recently by social scientists (Smith et al., 2003).
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