Strategic options for addressing climate change within arable cropping are those management practices or technologies that will assist a farmer to do something practical that will make a difference on-farm in the mid to longer term.
Some of the options include changing crop species, developing new ‘climate-resilient’ genotypes, using precision agriculture, employing weather monitoring and forecasting programs, and using irrigation in farm systems.
It is important to understand that not all strategic options will work for any one farm situation, and it is a matter of evaluating what will fit with the existing farm system and climatic experiences that are occurring or likely to occur for that area.
Changing crops grown
Farmers might consider moving beyond changing the cultivar of the particular crop they grow, to making a whole species shift – i.e. undertaking totally new crops based on information about what is growing well in other regions or countries under similar climatic environments. For example, while maize is typically suited to northern climates of NZ, under future climate scenarios it is expected to migrate into farming systems further south as temperatures become more suited to its growth requirements.
Developing new ‘climate-resilient’ plant geneotypes
Maintaining a large gene pool within plant species allows for the potential for new selections of genotypes to evolve that may be advantageous for adapting to changing climatic conditions. It is problematic that many of the easier gains have been made in this area and selecting new strains is complicated by the multiple criteria in terms of climate, pests, yields etc. that will yet need to be met.
Using precision agriculture
An increased use of precision technology in farming will aid in management, efficiency of time, effort and resources use. Examples include using variable rate technology, GPS, remote sensing technology, soil sensing technology etc. These can aid in areas such as water or nutrient application, reduced soil compaction, specific placement of resources or use of equipment such as precision drilling.
Monitoring and weather forecasting programmes
It is expected that seasonal forecasting and early warning systems will help decision making around farm practice in relation to weather conditions. This is especially important given the predicted inter-seasonal climate variation that is expected to occur. Examples of this already exist in NZ such as soil moisture monitoring in conjunction with irrigation.
Irrigation developments and expansion
Ensuring a water supply is available for cropping when required will help growers adjust to changing climate. Longer term infrastructure investment may be required for water storage and irrigation systems to be incorporated into the farm system.