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Climate: how agriculture needs to change

Climate: how agriculture needs to change

It looks somewhat different in the fields of the Mühlenhof in the Gütersloh district. Rapeseed grows alongside winter vetch and tall groom, and alfalfa grass with rye. The Künsemöller family has created a special growing system with mixed crops and unavailable crops. Advantage: the ground is covered almost all year round. This keeps it cool and keeps it out of the water. Advantage in heat and dryness.
Because this is a “concrete solution to pressing challenges”, the Künsemöllers won the Federal Organic Agriculture Competition this year. One way or another: everyone in cultivation needs a rethink. Because climate change not only leads to increased heat and drought, but also extreme weather events such as hail or heavy rain.

In addition, farmers often have to adapt planting and harvest times to changes. Late frosts or very early heat phases don’t make this any easier. Such as diseases and pests that thrive in warmer temperatures or have an easier time with heat-stressed plants.

But how can adaptation work? One Intensive watering Is an obvious strategy – eg with rainwater retention ponds. But this is expensive and not available everywhere. Agroforestry last. Trees in or near a field can provide shade and cooling.

Farmer Sebastien Frey wants to combat drought with agroforestry. He plants trees in his fields because they draw the necessary water from the depths and keep the fields moist.

06/19/2023 | 01:48 min

For Professor Frank Ewert of the Leibniz Center for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF), more diversity in the field is part of the solution, the so-called diversification. The principle is actually simple:

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This means: if a drought comes, plants that can handle it will survive, and if there is heavy rain going on, other plants will survive. This reduces the risk of a complete loss of profits. “It is also important to be Soil fertility They are built and maintained and the water-holding capacity of the soil is positively affected,” says Ewert. This can also work if, for example, nutrient-rich plants are incorporated into a crop rotation that enriches the soil.

Which is of course a good idea in the future More powerful varieties Add. Millet, soybeans, and chickpeas are better suited to heat and drought than the commonly grown wheat varieties. Hope has always settled on New Hope resistant strains. This is a major topic at the Leibniz Institute for Plant Genetics and Plant Crop Research (IPK) in Gattersleben.

Changes caused by climate change are also likely to cause major problems for agriculture. So the EU Commission now wants to relax some of the genetic engineering requirements.

07.05.2023 | 03:02 min

There, the researchers have compiled a huge genetic database of barley cultivars. Dr. explains. Jens Freytag from IPK. Cultivars preserved, as seeds or in the field, are preserved. A pond in which many ancient plants also play a role.

The focus is on adapting to heat and drought. “But disease resistance is also an important advantage — and in two ways.” Varieties must be able to handle new pathogens. At the same time, the use of pesticides should be reduced.

Solutions and ideas already exist. However: Professor Ewert says the challenges are enormous. “Today, companies are faced with a whole list of requirements that they cannot meet on their own.” That’s why you need to clarify what kind of farming you want and “what that means for farmers and consumers. I miss that discussion at the moment.”

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More plants on the menu, less meat on the plate and less food waste – that’s also part of the theme. then:

Marc Hugo is Editor in the Environment Division at ZDF.