Diversifying crops may protect yields against a more variable climate

Mar 01, 2011

A survey of how farmers could protect themselves by growing a greater diversity of crops, published in the March issue of BioScience, has highlighted economical steps that farmers could take to minimize the threat to crops from global climate change, including a greater frequency of extreme climate events.

Adaptation to ongoing climate change is considered a policy priority for agriculture. The survey, by Brenda B. Lin of the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, documents multiple instances of farmers protecting economically important crops, such as rice and other cereals, alfalfa, and coffee, from outbreaks of pests and disease, often associated with climate change, or simply from changed physical conditions. The farmers succeeded by switching from growing a single variety of crop to growing a broader range of species or varieties, either at the same time or in rotation, or by introducing structural variety into uniform fields.

Such techniques work, in general, because they make it harder for and pests to spread, and they may modulate climate extremes the experience. Not all attempts at agricultural diversification lead to such benefits, Lin points out. Yet increasingly, farmers have access to crop modeling techniques that can evaluate when a given adaptation technique might provide an economic benefit. Because accurate modeling requires extensive knowledge of on-the-ground data, such as soil profiles for water and nutrients, Lin argues for the development of extension and research staff who can assist in gaining the information they need to use modeling techniques for adaptation.

Explore further: Reports identify areas where wildlife can survive in a changing climate

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

What farmers think about GM crops

Feb 24, 2008

Farmers are upbeat about genetically modified crops, according to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Climate change threatens rice production

Oct 16, 2009

Once-in-a-lifetime floods in the Philippines, India's delayed monsoon, and extensive drought in Australia are taking their toll on this year's rice crops, demonstrating the vulnerability of rice to extreme weather.

Crop failures set to increase under climate change

Oct 07, 2010

Large-scale crop failures like the one that caused the recent Russian wheat crisis are likely to become more common under climate change due to an increased frequency of extreme weather events, a new study shows.

Recommended for you

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.