A farmer in Georgia, USA, was able to reap the benefits of adapting to climate change. Joe Franklin’s citrus plantation in his 78-acre (31.6 hectares) is not where it should be; nevertheless, they are thriving where they are planted.
CBS reports that Franklin’s 12,000 citrus trees are growing and thriving in the middle of Georgia, where three to four decades ago is impossible. Grapefruit, Meyer lemons, mandarins, and mangoes are typically grown for hundreds of miles down south in Florida. But warming temperatures are changing where these fruits are grown.
Growing up, Franklin says that he would typically see frost in October and freezing temperatures in November, and now he is not seeing this anymore.
Franklin’s experience is also happening in many parts of the world. According to a report from the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA), crops in Africa and India are also seeing the impacts of climate change – it is warming the planet and causing more severe drought and flooding, which could reduce crop yields by up to 30% by 2050 (Adapt Now, 2019).
The GCA report forecasts a 50% increase in global demand for food between now and the middle of the century. In the most food-insecure regions, requests for food are higher – three times in sub-Saharan Africa and two-fold in South Asia.
It says climate adaptation will make a difference in whether food production can meet future food demands, but its absence will depress global yields by 5 to 30% by 2050.
While climate change brings benefits in some regions, it can bring devastation in others. The United States also sees dramatic shifts in crop production. California is growing coffee and fine wines from England.
While citrus is thriving in Georgia, peach trees require more winter chill to bloom in spring (Tracy, 2022).
According to Pam Knox, an agricultural climatologist at the University of Georgia, winters have warmed more than 3.5°F on average since the 1800s, causing many peach varieties to struggle.
Their researchers are now scrambling to develop varieties suitable for warmer weather. When asked whether crops will continue to migrate north, Knox responded that crop migration is limited to the type of soil, accessibility to irrigation, and farmers’ skills (Tracy, 2022).
“Because if you’re a peach producer, you’re probably not gonna suddenly switch to cattle”, she adds.
A study in Agricultural Water Management looks at the adaptation actions farmers take to cope with water scarcity and what factors lead to farmers adapting to climate change (Zobeidi et al., 2022).
According to the study, awareness of climate change is a prerequisite to farming taking action. Although some farmers believe in climate change, they are not yet ready to adapt. While in some farmers, their spiritual beliefs – a belief that all events, including climate change, are inevitable and predetermined, can also be a factor that prevents them from adapting (Zobeidi et al., 2022).
The study focused on incremental adaptation – “actions and behaviours that reduce the harm or increase the benefits of natural changes in climate and severe events and is characterized by a continuous response to climate hazards in an existing system”. Examples include the cultivation of new varieties, changes to the timing of cultivation, diversification of production, intercropping, and changes to the crop cultivated.
Because farmers are the implementors of climate adaptation policies and programs, understanding their behaviours and factors that affect their adaptation is crucial in strengthening their adaptive capacities and improving sustainable agriculture and food security.
Tracy, B. (2022, November 20). With climate change, crops migrate north. CBS News. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/with-climate-change-crops-migrate-north/
Adapt Now: A Global Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience. Global Commission on Adaptation. (2019). Retrieved from https://gca.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/GlobalCommission_Report_FINAL.pdf
Zobeidi, T., Yaghoubi, J., & Yazdanpanah, M. (2022, April 30). Farmers’ incremental adaptation to water scarcity: An application of the model of private proactive adaptation to climate change (MPPACC), Agricultural Water Management. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agwat.2022.107528.