The fact that we only have one planet on which to grow our crops should be motivation enough to act on mitigating the effects of climate change. The effects of climate change have been experienced across the world – with some regions experiencing higher impacts than others. From extremely cold/hot temperatures to shifts in rainfall patterns, the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events presents different crop growing environments to farmers. Some crops benefit from warm temperatures and can achieve desired yields within a shorter period thereby resulting in less farm inputs/costs. This increased efficiency can result in using less pesticides, fewer fertilizers, and less water/energy for irrigation in the case of irrigated crops. The drop in using less quantities is a step towards achieving agricultural sustainability.
Extreme weather conditions can also indirectly affect crop yields by making the environment conducive for pest survival. This can result in more frequent application of pesticides to ensure that desired yields are met. Crop yield losses are also envisioned due to the increased likelihood of disease occurrence. Therefore, varying growing conditions call for region-specific adaptation. Further research is required to provide farmers with the much-needed information for them to make good choices. Other crops can undergo heat stress which can affect the yield. Therefore, farmers must adapt their farming practices to changing environmental conditions or venture into growing crops that suit their regions. High temperatures do not only physically damage crops but also reduce the soil moisture content available to facilitate nutrient uptake via crop roots.
The impacts of climate change are global, and farmers’ adaptive capacity varies from region to region. Subsistence farmers, especially in poor countries, are at a higher risk of experiencing the impacts of climate change on their crops. Reasons for this include, but are not limited to, lack of resources and poorly structured communication networks to sensitize farmers. In most developed countries, climate change interventions tend to be more well-established with farmers receiving financial and literacy support from their governments and non-governmental organizations.
Commercial farmers rely mostly on fossil fuel-powered machinery for agricultural operations such as land preparation, planting, crop protection, harvesting, and post-harvest processing. The result is not only them producing our food from crops but also more greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. Studies show that there is a correlation between rising average world temperatures and the rise of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. Farmers may argue that crops depend on the presence of CO2 in the atmosphere during the photosynthesis process, but this rise is only beneficial to a limited number of crop types. Furthermore, the rise in CO2 levels can only be beneficial if climate change-induced winds were not strong enough to physically damage these crops. In my opinion, we need all parties to collaborate towards fighting climate change because it is here and is already affecting us all directly or indirectly. Different solutions need to be explored with every sector playing their part.