Farming will adapt

The wailing and gnashing of teeth about New Zealand’s response to climate change is generally motivated by politics rather than environmental concerns.

Anyone who thinks that beggaring our economy to reduce greenhouse gases will make any significant impact on the climate doesn’t understand the numbers.

Our emissions are tiny by world standards and most come from animals which provide protein, the bulk of which is exported.

If we reduce our contribution to feeding the world, farmers in other countries will fill the gap and almost certainly do so in a less efficient and environmentally sustainable way than we do it here.

While the wailers and gnashers are getting political, others, like Federated Farmers’ President Bruce Wills,  are being practical.

As the climate has always changed there are negatives, yes, but many positives too. A more Mediterranean climate may bring new pests and diseases but it will also see off many cold climate ailments too.  

Take Northland, which by the end of this century, could end up with a climate similar to that found in southern Queensland. 

For livestock farmers that will see what they farm and even genetic lines tailored to regional climates.

It may mean commercial crops of soybean, sorghum and potentially rice may become possible.

From reading I even understand everything from mangoes to Thai galangalginger is found in Northland.  Among these and other tropical fruit could be the next ‘Chinese gooseberry’ breakthrough.  It is not beyond the realm of fantasy that even Oil Palm could one day become viable. 

My point is that farming will continue but its nature will evolve and adapt.  We must be open-minded about the possibilities and ensure we have all the tools in place to turn challenges into opportunities.

Take the engine room of any farm; its pasture and crops. We are already seeing a renaissance in deep-rooted Lucerne championed by farmer Doug Avery.

You can add to that drought tolerant crops of chicory, plantain and not to mention deciduous trees like poplars and willows. New cultivars of drought-resistant pasture will also come forward as we add new tools to our toolbox.

Our farm pastures are also a significant if unheralded environmental tool. 

They are arguably our best means of keeping nutrients on-farm and out of water yet it needs three things to flourish; high soil temperatures, long sunshine hours and water. . .

He points out we have tow of these three, but need more of the third.

The Opuha Dam has effectively drought-proofed a large swathe of South Canterbury.

Opuha has been lauded by Labour and National politicians. Even Dr Russel Norman seemed impressed when Federated Farmers hosted him there several years ago. It provides water for farms, an environment for aquatic life, a place to recreate and minimum flows to the formerly summer dry Opihi River.

Economically, it has exceeded all expectations but it also opened back in 1998 and remains our sole example of modern water storage.

For intensive cropping, dairy and horticulture, the benefits of irrigation are self-evident.  Yet much irrigation is dependent upon groundwater or river takes and both are affected by drought or just summer.

Capturing and storing water during winter frees irrigators from river takes and groundwater.

Yet water storage is also a breakthrough for drystock farming too. Irrigating even 20 hectares of a farm becomes a pasture generator reducing that climatic lottery we currently have. 

According to the ANZ Bank the current drought has already cost New Zealand over a billion dollars. Irrigation NZ estimates this sum, if invested in water storage projects, could future proof Canterbury for the next 100 years.

Like Irrigation NZ, Federated believes the solution lies in a combination of regional and on-farm water storage.

Farmers are smart adaptive people but as our climate will change, isn’t it smarter for public policy to enable the solutions we will all need to meet it?

Is it a coincidence that the same people who don’t think we’re doing enough to combat climate change are often the ones who are likely to oppose water storage which is one of the best ways to adapt to it?

Or is it proof that they are more focussed on political problems than practical solutions?

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9 Responses to Farming will adapt

  1. willdwan says:

    All perfectly true, but you have to admit, climate change is a God-send for rent-seekers.

  2. Roger says:

    Hear, hear. And so, even a cursory review of mainstream news shows the global warming debate is over (as they are wont to state, but for entirely the opposite than they had hoped). It’s over because the MSM has caught up with the news that it seems the promised warming has not happened (and in fact the record shows a cooler world) and not one actual record meets any prior published predicted modelling. All rather inconvenient – despite record volumes of CO2 entering the atmosphere.

  3. Paranormal says:

    Spot on Ele. Ditto Willdwan and Roger. Look out though – you’ll see the wailers and teeth gnashers here shortly to complain you are offending their new religion.

  4. Mr E says:

    Perhaps we need a distinction between those that think gradual practical solutions will be found vs those who think taxing the economy is a solution.
    Farmers adapt every day. I can’t an emissions tax as a solution.

  5. TraceyS says:

    It’s not surprising that the published data don’t match the model predictions, because the models omit important variables. Therefore we should expect the models to be wrong. No surprise there!

    But where does your information come from that “the record shows a cooler world” and over what period are you talking about?

    Understanding what drives temperature change (in either direction) is very important to farming and to all of us. A comprehensive recent study suggests the impact of human CO2 emissions on global warming is small and at times the relationship is an inverse one. CO2 does not appear to drive temperature change and this might lead to questioning whether CO2 behaves as a “greenhouse” gas at all.

    So there must be some other factor yet to be understood and we should go on trying to define it. The debate is certainly not over. Nor should it be. But I would agree that it is time for the politicians to leave the science to the scientists. The more politicians have to say on global warming, the more muddied public understanding becomes. This is because politicians have to stake positions at some point and this is entirely at odds with science’s goal of leaving the doors open. The only ones who can be trusted are those who approach each new piece of evidence with humble curiosity and accept that we humans are far from complete understanding of the phenomenon.

  6. TraceyS says:

    Beware anyone who refuses to provide evidence to back up their claim. They are either relying on superseded sources, making things up, or unwilling to give up their psychological commitment (or a combination thereof).

    A common line seems to be that by not accepting their almost religious fervour you are by definition not worth the time to explain things. Imagine if we applied that thinking to the education of our kids? Too slow, ignorant, curious, belligerent etc? Therefore not worth spending time on.

  7. TraceyS says:

    We need to question the motives of those who reckon carbon taxes, which would put more money in the government’s coffers, will solve problems. What a joke! Either that or they (wrongly) think that ‘punishment’ (in the form of tax) will lead to behavioural change. An equally funny joke. Just look at how the punishing increases in fuel prices have reduced our consumption, not.

    Carbon tax is just a way of justifying a Green government. Once large enough numbers of us have been brainwashed into thinking such a tax is needed then we will need Green politicians to decide what to do with it all – because they’re APPARENTLY the only ones who know how to deal with environmental problems, ha ha.

  8. Viv says:

    So Tracey, you are able to make a comment on climate change, but woe betide anyone who makes a counter claim unless they have ultrafast broadband and nothing else to all day except provide you with references. If they don’t, you suggest it is a personal affront. Great way to engage in discussion!

  9. TraceyS says:

    LOL Viv, you think I have all day to sit around researching climate change?!

    I don’t make climate change claims. All I do is communicate what others have found where relevant and meaningful. Nor do I take any of the comments made here (or elsewhere) personally.

    Staying up with the research is important to me. If it’s not important to you, then you are free to take no notice of my comments.

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