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Five tips for farmers amidst climate change

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Five tips for farmers amidst climate change

Category Farming

 

Changing season, changing weather? Or is it?

Do the seasons have less of an influence on our weather patterns than before? Scientists and farmers say yes. Climate change has brought droughts, higher temperatures throughout the year, more frequent floods, all with devastating effects on agriculture.

Climate change is not about preventing, it is about living with it. The reasons, sources and effects are numerous and complex, yet farmers are adapting to the climate's changes. From planting indigenous crops to employing enduring practices such as no-till and crop rotations, we are adapting to the changes that have come to stay.

Here are five tips on how farmers and agri-property owners can manage and even remediate the challenges of climate change.

1.  Keep carbon in the soil

Soils have a massive potential to lock-up carbon dioxide CO₂ (a greenhouse gas) so by sequestering carbon in the soil, farmers lower atmospheric carbon. Increasing organic carbon also increases soil fertility and productivity.

2.  Build soil

Increasing organic matter in soil builds soil micro life. This in turn helps form aggregates that build soil structures. These aggregates improve moisture-holding capacity, limit compaction and increase aeration in the soil. Mulch, plant cover crops and use microorganisms to increase organic matter and improve soil quality.

'About 90% of the Western Cape's wheat farmers have adopted no-till, cover crops and diversification (adding sheep or cattle) to their farming practices,' says Dr Peter Johnston, a researcher at the University of Cape Town's Climate System Analysis Group.

3.  Manage water

Being water-wise builds resilience in droughts. Examples include rainwater harvesting, reporting and repairing leaks and using mulch to reduce evaporation. Exposed soil leads to evaporation, loss of topsoil and poor water penetration during rains.

'Water and soil conservation cannot happen without a "permaculture" design of the farm. This includes contouring, contour lines, restoring watersheds and key lines to shift water,' suggests Dr Naudé Malan, convenor of iZindaba Zokudla.

4.  Digitise

Employ smart technology to optimise farming. For example, soil moisture probes can determine the water demand of crops and allow for precision and localised irrigation. Weather data apps and satellite technology can predict weather and even the occurrence of pests.

5.  Reduce inputs

Reliance on diesel and ESKOM-generated energy supports emission-intensive industries. Invest in energy systems such as solar-powered water pumps and Greef energy vertical wind turbines to complement conventional energy sources.

Technology can indicate where area-specific applications of fertiliser or chemicals (and water) are needed and will reduce the cost of a sweeping generic application.

In terms of applications, read the label. Often, applications are over-concentrated which lead to waste and pollution.

Selling to local markets, neighbours and the community reduces travelling miles and subsequent carbon footprint.

Author Marinda Louw Coetzee, Agri journalist
Published 07 Mar 2022 / Views -
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