The ability of U.S. growers — and growers worldwide – to adapt to varying weather patterns is becoming ever more critical, says one expert.
The world’s farmers will have to become increasingly ingenious in the future, according to William Easterling, dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at Pennsylvania State University, who spoke to more than 200 U.S. farmers and agribusiness representatives at the U.S. Grains Council’s 48th Annual Board of Delegates’ Meeting recently. He was referring to challenges farmers are currently facing in regards to severe flooding conditions in the Midwest and drought conditions in other regions.
He projected weather-related obstacles to become increasing challenging in the future. “There will be no gradual change in the weather. There will be a great deal of variability. It will be up and down as we move forward,” said Easterling. “Variability and preparing for the unknown will be the challenge.”
He said adaptation to sudden changes in the weather and a defense plan for natural calamities will be crucial to prevailing against floods, droughts, or other weather conditions that could potentially dampen farmers’ productivity. Farmers will have to have plenty of “weapons in their arsenal.”
“Farmers are very good at pulling through during tough times. When it comes to these types of challenges farmers will have to be able to adjust by modifying planting dates, switching the type of crops they grow, changing their rotation schemes, and deploying irrigation when and where it is economical,” said Easterling, adding that declining water levels will also become more problematic.
Investing in modern biotechnology and research will be instrumental when preparing for the years ahead. He said global food production will likely be adequate overall but unequal distribution may harm food security, especially in tropical regions. “Distribution will be of great importance. We have to get food where it is needed most. Trade will be key in moving food across the globe.”