B.C. climate change research sees national potential for producers

A series of research projects focused on climate change has wrapped up in British Columbia, with many of the results applicable across the country.

“Our producers are looking for tools and resources to help them adapt and remain profitable,” says Emily MacNair, program manager of the B.C. Agriculture and Food Climate Action Initiative.

Over five years, the initiative supported about 55 projects. Forty through the Regional Adaptation Enhancement Program which collaboratively develops regional climate adaptation strategies identifying and prioritizing impacts of climate change on agriculture and 15 through the Farm Adaptation Innovator Fund supporting applied research projects that demonstrate and evaluate practices, approaches and technologies that can be adopted on farm.

“The joint planning process helped hone in on the problems and identify impacts,” says MacNair.

Although some projects are B.C. specific, other findings or the research methodology could be valuable to non-BC producers.

Cattle research

One project developed an online tool to help cattle ranchers assess source water for natural ponds during cattle grazing. A warming climate could impact pond longevity, which means proactively planning for other water resources.

Irrigation studies

Another looked at precision irrigation based on soil type and crop needs across 42-acres of grapes at Osoyoss and Oliver. Viticulturist and winemaker Severine Pinte wanted to maintain grape quality but conserve water when implementing new irrigation.

“Irrigation isn’t just using water,” Pinte says. “It uses power and labour and we’ve already cut down on cost of labour by 50 per cent. In the long run, we can sustain our grape quality and the price of our wines, so as a business, it’s huge.”

Pest enquiry

Fraser Valley dairy producer Holger Schwichtenberg has interest in a project that catalogued pest information and resources, particularly new pests. As chair of Mainland Milk Producers, which includes about 380 producers, he says this project is important because it’s difficult for producers to undertake the work while maintaining their businesses.

“If there’s a source of information and someone doing the necessary legwork and offering solutions, producers are very much in favour,” Schwichtenberg says.

Yet another project involves creating a tool, currently in the final production stage, to walk a producer through actions before, during and after a wildfire.

Information sharing

Many of the original research studies and findings are online. Shorter project summaries and some videos, to be released shortly, have been created for quick information.

At the program level, MacNair says they have provided information to people working to develop programs in Quebec and Manitoba and preliminary dialogue has begun with colleagues in Washington and Oregon to explore cross-border information sharing.

“At the regional level, we’ve developed a strong collaborative planning process that helps identify and prioritize climate change impacts, and develop an action plan – that’s an approach that can be shared and implemented in other places,” MacNair says.

Close to 100 partners worked to bring the adaptation projects to life, including industry associations, farmers, post-secondary institutions and researchers, all levels of government, and several government ministries.

Bottom line

A series of climate change research projects looked at wrapped multiple issues farmers face, including water shortage and pest management issues. 

Article by: Myrna Stark Leader