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Climate change –mitigation and adaptation measures

In my first post on this blog I wrote about the consequences of climate change for agriculture in Serbia. This week I will write what the possible mitigation and adaptation measures could be to combat these consequences.

Mitigation measures
Climate scientists and others are convinced that climate change is the result of emissions of green house gasses (GHG). Therefore mitigation measures would mostly focus on reducing these emissions, although their effects would not be noticeable in the short term. In agriculture reductions of emissions of GHG can be accomplished by reducing the amounts of fossil fuels used, by reducing the amounts of fertilizers applied, by using renewable sources of energy (such as wind and solar power), or by banning bad practices such as burning of topsoil to remove harvest residues and to control pests. The use of biodiesel could be an option but there is much debate whether bio-fuels reduce emissions of GHG or are actually sources of GHG, apart from the moral question if food should be used for fuel. Another -alternative- way how agriculture can contribute to lowering GHG emissions is to convert obsolete or abandoned agricultural land into forests. Netto, forests remove GHG –most notably CO2- from the air.

Adaptation measures
The following adaptation measures for agriculture are proposed:

  • Improvement of irrigation, drainage and flood resistance systems; raising of water table;
  •  Adjustment of harvest dates and field work to the calendar of the new climate conditions;
  • Development and use of new flood and/or drought resistant crops;
  • Reduction of the share of summer crops and an increase of the share of winter crops;
  •  Application of ‘green’ fertilizers and changes in mulching practices to prevent the evaporation of moisture, the freezing of roots, and the growing of weeds;
  • Improvement of soil fertility and prevention of soil erosion by not removing harvest residues and by not ploughing too deep.
  • Improvement of soil structures in order to increase water storage capacity and to protect the land from erosion;
  • Construction and restoration of natural vegetation in and around agricultural areas to prevent soil erosion and to provide for natural pollination and natural pest control;
  • Changes in the use of fertilizers and agro-chemicals, or the application of alternative approaches such as natural pest control;
  • Increased veterinarian inspection on farms, abattoirs, animal transport and distribution centers, markets, meat processing plants, etc. and enforced stringent application of hygienic and des-infective measures in these places in order to reduce the spreading of diseases;
  • The application of vaccines and the use of preventative and curative medications;
  • Improved emergency and contingency planning to prepare for and respond to outbreaks of diseases;
  • Improvement of public awareness campaigns and of educational programmes targeting the agricultural sector regarding the dangers and spread of diseases and pathogens.

The production of spring crops such as soybean, sunflower, corn, sugar beet and potato could be considered to start earlier. The cultivation of winter crops such as rapeseed, barley, rye, etc. should be moved forward to October-November. Due to reduced harvests of animal fodder, it will become more difficult and costly to keep livestock also having in mind potential increased costs due to diseases. This will be reflected in prices of meat to consumers. How difficult it may be for meat lovers, society perhaps needs to reduce the consumption of meat. Farmers, due to decreased incomes caused by lost harvests, should look for alternative sources such as rural tourism.

These proposed adaptation measures require more research, investment and changes in attitudes but it is vital that agriculture in Serbia adapts itself to the already occurring and to be expected consequences of climate change. Apart from the above mentioned adaptation measures, Serbia needs to maintain adequate water storage capacity and make provisions for ‘bringing the water to where it is needed’. Water storage capacity could be achieved via the construction of wetlands and artificial lakes. These would be able to handle and hold excess water accumulated during floods and make it available during times of drought. They would have the added benefits of purifying water, provide habitat for wildlife and to provide for recreation for people. Nature can provide many of these so-called ‘ecosystem services’ to agriculture in Serbia. And that will be the topic of my next article on this blog.

Sources, Inter alia:
Initial National Communication Of The Republic Of Serbia Under The United Nations Framework Convention On Climate Change. The Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, Belgrade, Serbia, 2010.

Lalić B. and Mihailović D. (2011): Impact of climate change on food production in northern Serbia 2011(Vojvodina). Faculty of Agriculture, University of Novi Sad, Serbia.

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