Assessment of the main climate risks to produce production on order to identify adaptation needs
This project helped to raise awareness among produce sector stakeholders about the main climate risks and their future evolution in relation to climate change, to identify mitigation measures for these risks in the form of production practices and technological solutions, and to recommend possible ways to guide and assist produce growers in diagnosing climate risks on their farm.
Microbursts, heavy rains, periods of drought, extreme temperatures: these are some of the climatic events that have marked Québec’s produce sector in recent years. Some of these phenomena may be linked to climate change and could intensify over the coming decades. What are the main current climate risks to produce production and how will they evolve in the future? How can produce growers cope with these risks? What are their adaptation needs? The Québec Produce Growers Association developed this project in an effort to address these priority issues for the competitiveness of Québec’s produce sector.
To establish the adaptation needs of produce growers to protect against current and future risks associated with climatic events and to identify appropriate protection technologies.
A literature review and consultations with stakeholders, produce growers and climate experts made it possible to:
Identify the principal climate risks facing produce production in view of the climatic events of recent years and their potential evolution in relation to climate change;
Document the effects and incidences of these climate risks on produce production;
Assess the suitability of the risk management tools currently available in Québec and describe farmers’ adaptation needs.
The main climate risk to produce production is excessive rain, which hinders the absorption of nutrients and increases the incidence of root rot. Other significant risks include extreme heat, water stress, early or late frost, hail and severe wind (see Figure 1). Most of these risks will continue to be of concern in the decades to come. Some, such as episodes of intense rain and extreme high temperatures, are likely to increase. With the anticipated increase in growing season length, the risk of spring frost will occur earlier, while the risk of early autumn frost will be later.
Certainly, there are increasingly efficient technologies to mitigate the risks associated with climate change. These include the use of sheltered growing methods such as large tunnels and protective netting. However, one thing clearly emerges from the interviews conducted with farmers and stakeholders: the solutions should focus on observing the changes and their impacts at the farm level and on the adoption of good agricultural practices. While a number of these methods are well known, some appear to have been overlooked or abandoned for economic reasons.
Figure 1. Distribution of claims paid from 2004-2010, by climatic event and produce category. Data source: Financières agricoles du Québec, 2011. Compilation and analysis: Forest Lavoie Conseil.
For example, the priority adaptation needs identified to protect crops from excessive rain are based on good soil management and compaction management practices (drainage, levelling, cover crops, intercropping, etc). In addition, farmers need to get back to basics: adapting, diversifying and changing planting and harvesting dates; increasing the diversity of varieties grown; cultivating a healthy soil, rich in organic matter; drawing inspiration from certain more robust systems used in organic agriculture, etc.
It is recommended that farmers perform a climate risk diagnosis and select appropriate production - and/or technology-based risk mitigation measures based on economic decisions. The federal and provincial governments, research centres, counselling services and institutions, through their assistance and insurance programs, also have an important role to play in guiding and assisting produce growers through this process.
Benefits for adaptation
Benefits for adaptation
This project helped to:
raise awareness among produce sector stakeholders about the main climate risks and their future evolution in relation to climate change;
identify mitigation measures for these risks in the form of production practices and technological solutions;
recommend possible ways to guide and assist produce growers in diagnosing climate risks on their farm.
Association des producteurs de fraises et framboises du Québec
Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation (MAPAQ)