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Agricultural practices impact climate change, but climate change also impacts agriculture. And Canadian agricultural policy has overwhelmingly targeted mitigation, rather than adaptation. 


A Policy Concepts Paper released June 20 by Agri-Food Economic Systems reviews the anticipated effects of climate change on agriculture, the evidence to date of what changes are occurring, and argues for a shift in policy direction. 


The paper reviews the literature on long-term changes in Canadian climate, and finds that Canada is getting warmer and wetter- but mostly in the winter and mostly in the north.  Nonetheless, it is resulting in a longer growing season with adequate precipitation, allowing increased yields, movement of new crops into previously unsuitable areas and movement of agriculture into areas that have previously been unsuitable to be farmed. But there are also risks, and not all regions, and importantly not much of the Prairies, have seen these effects.


“Being at the northern fringe of viable agriculture globally, a subtly warmer and wetter situation is surely a benefit for Canada,” says Al Mussell, Agri-Food Economic Systems research lead and author of the paper. “But there are many layers to climate change in agriculture.”


The paper reviews scientific evidence on changes in crop physiology and adjustment to warming. It finds that with warming, there is an increased atmospheric concentration of CO2 creating a fertilization effect and positive yield response in most but not all crops, accompanied by improved water use efficiency- but with reduced nutrient profiles and concerns regarding seedling vigour. It also reviews evidence on the effects of climate change on agriculture elsewhere in the world, where it is mostly detrimental.    


“As the global food situation continues to tighten, the countries advantaged by climate change have an opportunity to specialize and feed others increasingly threatened by food insecurity,” says Mussell. “To do that, Canadian agriculture needs to be focused on how we adapt to climate change, and look for opportunities to mitigate emission within an adaptation focus.” Mussell concludes, “Climate change mitigation is a long game. We need to achieve and sustain food security in the world to buy this time.”


The Policy Concepts Paper can be accessed at  Agri-Food Economic Systems Inc. is an independent economic research organization dedicated to agriculture and food located in Rockwood, Ontario.



Source:  Agri-Food Economic Systems Inc June 20, 2024 news release


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Submitted by Karen Davidson on 20 June 2024