Growers urged to protect crops against climate change

By Catherine Boal

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Climate change Agriculture

Following last summer's heatwave and subsequent dwindling supplies
of cereals, farmers have been encouraged to prepare early for this
year's growing season to try and mitigate the increasingly damaging
effect of climate change on the bakery and snacks industry.

Bakers and snack manufacturers struggled last year to absorb climbing commodity costs as wheat prices soared and businesses found themselves paying as much as 20 per cent more for flour. Now Farming Futures, a UK organisation working with industry bodies such as the National Farmers Union (NFU) and Applies Research Forum (ARF), has launched a series of fact sheets which teach growers about how global warming can directly affect their business and the business of those further up the supply chain. In a survey from December last year, 60 per cent of English farmers said they were already affected by climate change while 70 per cent expected to be feeling the heat within the next decade. Challenges facing arable crop growers include earlier spring growth and ripening, reduced yields caused by sustained high temperatures, lower soil moisture hindering germination and an increase in pest activity. However, it is not all bad news as warmer weather could actually increase winter wheat yields by as much as 12 to 28 per cent. In order to limit the drastic effects of climate change, farmers are being urge to accommodate growing patterns and activity to take account of forecasted changes. In particular, Farming Futures stresses the importance of reducing carbon emissions and being energy efficient. And it is not just cereal growers who should be wary. Potato crops have endured unfavourable weather this year resulting in reduced supply and a greater prevalence of waste. According to the British Potato Council (BPC), overall crop yields were down 12.2 per cent from the previous year in the Netherlands while France dropped 6.2 per cent and Belgium 1.9 per cent. Farming Futures advises potato growers to use varieties that mature earlier, harvest rainwater in preparation for long, dry periods and improve storage facilities to maximise energy efficiency and potato quality.

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