The concept of climate change can be a particularly controversial topic and is routinely politicized, but the scientific data available shows that changing weather patterns and shifts in average temperatures are being recorded around the world. While the cause for changing temperatures will continue to be debated, the agricultural industry would be best served by understanding the climate trends in order to better prepare for the impact they will have moving forward.
“From a broader perspective, climates are clearly changing. There’s just no doubt about it anymore in terms of the data record,” said Greg Jones, Director of the Evenstad Center for Wine Education at Linfield College. “The changes are very different from place to place though, where some areas are seeing changes more in the maximum temperatures, some more in the minimum.”
Understanding those changes in environmental conditions and preparing for how that will affect a farming operation is one of the most significant challenges to successfully adapting. If current climate change models come to fruition in the coming years, it becomes even more important for farmers to carefully consider the crop varieties that are being planted.
“You really need to know ‘do I have the best possible plant material given the current environment that I’m growing in.’ Then, of course, you have to make a decision if you’re replacing an entire orchard or vineyard or whatever it is,” Jones noted. “There’s a lot of academic research and industry-wide research and development that’s been trying to better produce plant material that is more resilient to changes in the future.”
There is an ample collection of data available to help better track temperature and precipitation changes. Keeping that information in mind will allow growers to prepare their farming systems in a way to better adapt to the changes ahead. “What we have been seeing in agriculture is trying to figure out how we can best be both a farmer and manager of a crop system and also be a scientist to some degree and sometimes that’s a little difficult,” said Jones.