“The reality is this is hitting us now,” says Ian Ward, an organic vegetable producer from Elgin, on the subject of climate change and its impacts on local agriculture. As a member of the regional working group for the Montérégie, Ward has been participating in the Agriclimate Project, which aims to make farmers more aware of consequences stemming from changes in climate expected to occur between now and 2050. The project hopes to help farmers to brace themselves for change as well as adapt to them in a sustainable manner.
Piloted by the Conseil pour le developpent de l’agriculture du Québec, and financed by the provincial Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, and Fight Against Climate Change and the Programme Action-Climat, the project is being conducted over a three-year period, ending in 2020 with the expected release of regional climate change adaptation plans for agriculture.
The Agriclimate Project recently released portraits of each region with a description of the major changes to be expected over the next thirty years. By 2050 the project predicts the Montérégie will be affected by: longer growing season; more frequent extreme heat days and nights as well as longer heat waves; increased total annual precipitation; thinner snow cover for a shorter period of time; more liquid precipitation in winter; more frequent and more intense extreme rain events; more precipitation in the form of localized and intense thunderstorm cells. While this list suggests the possibility of increased crop yields, it is also foreshadowing very unpredictable weather and less stable conditions for growing.
“The models show that the extreme weather of 2018 will be the norm by 2035. That’s what we can expect, but any given year that can happen or worse, so we need to be ready. We need to be taking action now,” says Ward, who represents vegetable producers on the local syndicate of the UPA. “That means doing everything we can to protect our soil and to help our soil protect itself,” he adds, noting “we can’t protect against extreme drought, rain events and less snow cover in winter. That means extreme erosion, loss of nutrients and fertility. The conclusion of the working group was that the soil will need to be covered at all times.”
A total of nine regional working groups composed of farmers and other agricultural stakeholders from the participating regions first met in 2017 to review portraits of each region. During this initial meeting, a number of threats and opportunities were identified for the region’s farm operations. Adaptation measures were then discussed during a second meeting in 2018. A third meeting will take place in 2019 with the objective of establishing priorities for adaptation measures, and to develop regional adaptation plans.
More information can be found online at: agriclimat.ca/en