Len Wilcox wonders how a warming world will affect how we farm.
It’s no surprise to anyone living in the western United States that 2014 was the warmest year ever recorded. Unfortunately, we heard the same thing at the end of 2013 – it was one of warmest years ever. Weather records kept for the last 135 years show that we’re in a long-term warming trend – what some call global warming, or climate change. Whatever you call it, it’s indisputable that the records show a long-term trend and farmers need to pay attention to it.
Here are some interesting facts: The last record year for cold was 1911. We’ve been warming up ever since. Nine of the ten hottest years on record have happened in the last decade. This was the 38th year in a row that the world was warmer than the 20th century average.
Farmers need to pay attention to this trend and be ready to adapt to a changing environment. Scientists with the University of California are beginning to study this problem and have some early conclusions.
They say we’ll probably see the first effects in our insect and weed problems. We know that mild winters mean higher insect populations in summer, that more frost-sensitive insects survive warm winters. But also, increasing temperatures allow higher rates of growth, survival, and reproduction in insect populations. Overall, they like the heat and do well in it.
So the populations will grow, and the varieties will too. Insects normally found in warmer climates will move northward, as will invasive plants. Their normal predators may or may not come north with them – no one really knows.
Another consideration is chilling hours, which are so important to fruit and nut growers. Trees and vines need time below 45 degrees every winter. What happens if those hours are shortened?
The potential for disaster from this warming trend is huge. We need to put our best minds on tracking it and helping us find ways to deal with it.
I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View from AgNet West.