Farming climate change

Climate change is caused by increased greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations. This is generally accepted by most atmospheric scientists to be the case. The current GHG level has not been experienced in 650,000 years and this is widely recognised as one of the most serious issues facing mankind.

This is according to David Trant of Teagasc, who notes agriculture accounts for about 30 per cent of total Irish GHG emissions. Work is under way to reduce GHG’s while at the same time it is hoped to expand Irish agricultural output, he added.

Trant outlined recent climatic changes and extreme events trends, which include: warmer temp in general but more temperature and weather extremes are evident; sea level rise due to glacier, snow and ice melt; and rainfall increases in many temperate zones such Ireland while droughts are more frequent and pronounced in the tropics.

“Computer modelling is used to predict the changes in climate in the future however different models give varying results especially at regional level,” he outlined. “Predictions for Munster suggest more rainfall and warmer temperatures. The relative advantages of the region for growing grass will be maintained though summer droughts will become more common in the future.”

He said that violent storms and floods are predicted to become more common.

“During Storm ‘Darwin’ Wind speed reached about 180 Km/hr and the biggest wave height of 25 m (82 ft.) was recorded – at the Kinsale gas energy platform. It is thought that above a certain global temperature threshold that climatic changes may accelerate and weather systems may undergo fundamental changes.”

In terms of farmer issues, he said planning is important and farmers may be able to counteract some of these projected weather events and its side effects.

“Grass when flooded over is generally contaminated with silt and can give rise to Listerosis when used as fodder. Removing potentially dangerous crops, trees, repairing roofs where necessary, designing flood protection bands around farmyards – all these can be undertaken when time and weather suits.  Simple things such as back up equipment/generators or even training in areas of Health and Safety are of benefit when things go wrong. New buildings should be located on higher ground and trees should be planted at a safe distance from any sheds,” he said.

Currently programmes such as the new Bord Bia Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme and Teagasc farm energy research are aimed at reducing carbon footprint while recording environmental features of Irish farming.

“This will be important for many different reasons but self-preservation may be the ultimate driver of reductions in GHG emissions,” the Teagasc advisor concluded.

 

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