In a guest post on the Hot Topic blog, Dr Gavin Kenny sets out his views on the sorts of things NZ agriculture should be doing to address climate change as it happens.
Kenny is a scientist who says for more than 20 years he has worked professionally on the “what ifs” of climate change, focused mostly on what it might mean for agriculture, in NZ , Europe, the Pacific Islands and Asia.
He says –
Climate change, particularly as experienced through more frequent drought and flood events, is increasingly influencing what farmers are doing in many countries. It is not clear whether this is yet the case in New Zealand, but I suspect so.
With a record summer drought just behind us, and with negative and positive effects that will continue to unfold for farmers, it is relevant to ask: What if we get more frequent and intense droughts in the future? How might farming change and how might those changes affect wider society?
Kenny says behaviour change is the crux of what climate change requires of us all.
Since 2001 he has worked on documenting positive things farmers are doing that are relevant in terms of building resilience to climate change.
This includes increasing numbers, still a minority, who are shifting to biological soil management; changes in pasture species and management with a focus on longer covers (not grazing the grass so hard) and greater rooting depth; changes in stock policies aimed at greater flexibility; a focus on greater soil moisture retention; fencing of riparian areas; on-farm water storage; planting trees for multiple benefits; fencing remnant native bush and putting them into QEII Trust covenants.
Kenny’s vision for farming in NZ would involve developing a “Food First” policy to ensure the basic food needs of all within New Zealand are met for now and for a future with climate change. We then export the surplus.
This would be founded on low carbon farming systems.