Agribusiness sector looks ahead together to lightning-fast climate change

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10 August 2021

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Climate change is happening extremely fast and humans are the cause. We can conclude this from the confrontational UN climate report. The climate has not changed at such a rapid pace in two thousand years. Only drastic measures can prevent extreme weather events. It is "code red for humanity," writes the UN.

Alarm bells are ringing for Dutch agriculture

Agriculture and other open crops are the first in the Netherlands to notice the effects of climate change. Growers are naturally inclined to adapt their crops and do so. But do those adjustments go far enough?

Changing weather patterns are difficult to predict. That makes it difficult to translate climate change into a concrete threat. Yet it is essential to be well prepared. Drought, heat and extreme precipitation are phenomena that farmers and market gardeners increasingly have to take into account.

Mapping risks with stress test

The weather is becoming more unpredictable, the risks are greater. Researchers at Wageningen University & Research (WUR) have developed a stress test, which gives an impression of the financial risks for growers. The economic risks for growers who do not take measures have been calculated for several cropping plans and regions.

The results differ per crop and region and have a large spread. The WUR researchers apply this bandwidth, because plots of land, varieties and growing conditions differ. As a result, the impact will also differ. The KNMI scenarios have the greatest influence on the outcome.

The stress test does not do more than outline the situation. It does show that even with slight climate changes, the damage, on average, easily amounts to thousands of euros per farm per year. And salinization is not even included in the figures. With increasing drought and a less even distribution of precipitation, that damage will also increase.

Preparing for extreme weather

One of the measures that can somewhat dampen the effects of drought and flooding is working on resilient soils. And breeders are working on more robust varieties that are more resistant to weather extremes and diseases and pests that benefit from a changing climate. Furthermore, spurred on by the past dry years, there is a lot of attention for water management.

Rabobank came out earlier with a report on water management in arable farming. The bank urges growers to think broadly about their water supply. Investments in irrigation equipment have increased significantly in recent years. Yet all that irrigation capacity is only part of the solution. In addition to financing wells and reels, Rabobank enters into a dialogue with clients about the future supply of water. After all, the availability of water cannot be taken for granted. There are more and more irrigation bans and more and more discussion about the extraction of water.

When it comes to sharing scarce water, arable farming is low on the list. It is therefore important to use water responsibly. In the report, the bank points to water-saving measures such as drip irrigation. And on new techniques such as level-controlled drainage.

Integral approach

A number of projects are underway throughout the Netherlands in which water storage is being considered at area level. In its report, Rabobank once again stresses the importance of this integrated approach. Many businesses are uncertain about water restrictions. And ultimately, everything has to be justifiable. Because having access to water is not something we can take for granted.

Sources: New Harvest | AD