For the InstructorThese student materials complement the Future of Food Instructor Materials. If you would like your students to have access to the student materials, we suggest you either point them at the Student Version which omits the framing pages with information designed for faculty (and this box). Or you can download these pages in several formats that you can include in your course website or local Learning Managment System. Learn more about using, modifying, and sharing InTeGrate teaching materials.
How Farmers Adapt to Climate Change
Farmers have had to adapt to the conditions imposed on them by the climate of their region since the inception of agriculture, but recent human-induced climate change is throwing them some unexpected curve balls. Extreme heat, floods, droughts, hail, and windstorms are some of the direct effects. In addition, there are changes in weed species and distribution, and pest and disease pressures, on top of potentially depleted soils and water stress. Fortunately, there are many practices that farmers can adopt and changes that can be made to our agricultural production system to make the system more resilient to our changing climate.
Farmers and ranchers are already adapting to our changing climate by changing their selection of crops and the timing of their field operations. Some farmers are applying increasing amounts of pesticides to control increased pest pressure. Many of the practices typically associated with sustainable agriculture can also help increase the resilience of the agricultural system to impact of climate change, such as:
- diversifying crop rotations
- integrating livestock with crop production systems
- improving soil quality
- minimizing off-farm flows of nutrients and pesticides
- implementing more efficient irrigation practices
The video below introduces and discusses several strategies being adopted by New York farmers to adapt to climate change. In addition, the fact sheet from Cornell University's Cooperative Extension about Farming Success in an Uncertain Climate produced by Cornell University's Cooperative Extension outlines solutions to challenges associated with floods, droughts, heat stress, insect invasions and superweeds. Also, p. 35, Box 8 in Advancing Global Food Security in the Face of a Changing Climate (Acrobat (PDF) 10.4MB Jan3 18) outlines some existing technologies that can be a starting point for adapting to climate change.
Learning Checkpoint: How can farmers adapt to climate change?
- Watch 15 min video by Cornell University about Agriculture and Adaptation about how New York farmers are adapting to climate change.
- Read the fact sheet from Cornell University's Cooperative Extension about Farming Success in an Uncertain Climate
- Read p. 35, Box 8 in Advancing Global Food Security in the Face of a Changing Climate (Acrobat (PDF) 10.4MB Jan3 18)
- Answer the questions below
Video: Climate Smart Farming Story: Adaptation and Agriculture (15:09)
Check Your Understanding
How can frost damage increase with climate change, even if temperatures are overall warming?
What are some ways that the risk of frost damage can be reduced in a warming climate?
Why is triticale a beneficial forage crop for farmers to grow?
What is an important management strategy that farmers can use in growing grapes to work with a changing climate?
What climate change impacts are the farmers in the video dealing with?
What strategies are implemented by the farmers in the video to manage their farms in a changing climate?
- Hatfield, J., G. Takle, R. Grotjahn, P. Holden, R. C. Izaurralde, T. Mader, E. Marshall, and D. Liverman, 2014: Ch. 6: Agriculture. Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment, J. M. Melillo, Terese (T.C.) Richmond, and G. W. Yohe, Eds., U.S. Global Change Research Program, 150-174. doi:10.7930/J02Z13FR. On the Web: http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/report/sectors/agriculture
- Lengnick, L. 2015. Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate, New Society Publishers.