Great Wine News posted a great article today that summarizes the USDA’s efforts to aid farmers, ranchers, and foresters adjust their practices to remain profitable as climate change continues to affect US farms, ranches, and forests. Severe weather events have become more frequent and have caused extensive amounts of damage across the United States, and while we here in the Great Lakes Region have avoided much of that damage, we still need to be cognizant of the potential issues and strive to farm in sustainable, ways that still .
In a USDA Power Point presentation summarizing the contents of the “Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States: Effects and Adaptation” report, Walthall et al. 2012 list the key points as to why agriculture research is critical:
- Agriculture has been and will continue to be significantly affected by changes in climate conditions
- Existing adaption strategies can help offset many – but not all –effects over the next 20-30 years; effects are very likely to worsen significantly beyond then, especially if GHG [Greenhouse Gasses] emissions remain high
- Improving the resilience of agricultural systems to climate change requires protection of the natural resource base (water & soil) and development of new strategies, tools, and practices for adaptation
Why do we care about this in viticulture and enology? Because this industry, too, will need to adapt to climate change in order to continue to thrive, regardless of where our vineyards and wineries are. If we want to continue to grow grapes, we must be careful to plant varieties that prosper in those specific regions/macroclimates and to manage vineyards with an eye on the long term – we want the industry to be around for a long time, so growers should consider planting cover crops that continue to build soil structure and organic matter. Sites for new plantings need to be carefully evaluated for tiling/drainage or irrigation , an so on.
Few would argue that humans enjoy grapes for consumption, jellies, jams, juice, and wine, so conservation strategies for adapting to climate change now are critical for grape and wine production in the future.