The well documented flooding in Germany and Belgium and the unprecedented recent heatwaves in the UK are just some examples of the extreme weather that is becoming more common due to climate change. Whilst we have been struggling to make sense of these changes, the agriculture industry is beginning to show signs of crisis.
Both crops and livestock are deeply affected by weather conditions because they are accustomed to specific climatic conditions. Therefore, unexpected rains and extreme temperatures have negatively impacted farmers and businesses in the food industry.
Before exploring how extreme weather affects agriculture, we need to first look at how global warming has mutated the UK’s climate.
Extreme Weather in the UK
Extreme weathers in the country are not sudden; the climate has been building up to this state for the past several years. There have been several changes in the UK climate due to global warming in the past three decades;
The average number of days of extreme rainfall has steadily risen from under 15 to over 20 days between 1960 and 2020.
2022recorded the highest temperature in UK’s history, followed shortly by 2019's record. This steady increase shows that temperatures in the UK have been gradually rising year on year, which can have devastating effects on industries that are not prepared for this - including agriculture.
The UK will stop seeing snowfall during winters as the coldest day’s temperature rises from -4°C in 2019 to 4°C by 2040.
These changes are significant because temperature changes of this calibre will have drastic changes in farming and agriculture overall.
Effect of Extreme Weather on Agriculture
The agricultural practices of every region have evolved based on the climatic conditions of that region. Hence, the changes mentioned above in rainfall and temperatures have started to cause the following events to occur in several areas.
The latest drought in the UK happened in this current year due to several factors. The year experienced declining river flows, lower than average monthly rainfall and higher than average temperatures.
As a result, several agricultural lands were far too dry to grow crops on, wildfires and general crop failure resulting in losses for both farmers and businesses in the industry. Within agriculture, this can then lead to higher pricespassed onto consumers for goods, which has wide-stretching economic consequences.
2. Extreme Heat
Heatwaves are becoming increasingly common and they present multiple risks to farmers. Unprecedented heatwaves affect crops and livestock, but more importantly, they are a health hazard for farmers and farm workers.
Farming involves long hours of continuous unprotected labour under the sun. Farm workers are exposed to sweltering heat and can get heatstroke if they don’t remain properly hydrated or stay out under the sun for too long.
3. Impact on Soil Health
Higher levels of rainfall, an abundance of greenhouse gases, extreme heat, etc., can deplete the soil of its natural organic matter. As a result, the soil loses its base structure and becomes vulnerable to erosion and degradation.
Unhealthy soil is also tricky for farming because it cannot provide plants with the nutrition they need to grow correctly and abundantly, resulting in shortages and economic strain on the people involved in the agricultural process.
4. Impact on Crops and Yield
Crops are mostly seasonal and often need specific climate conditions to grow in. Farmers in the UK have reported extensive crop wastagedue to the rising temperatures and rainfall. Several others have also reportedly faced trouble growing plants due to the higher soil erosion.
The combined result of these problems has drastically lowered the annual crop yield and made it difficult for businesses to maintain their supply chains.
Animals are sensitive to climate changes, and most are unaccustomed to higher temperatures that have recently been experienced in the UK. The US reportedly faced $1 billionof losses due to heat-related problems in livestock and the UK might be heading towards the same path.
The worsening droughts will also threaten livestock since they will lose pastures to graze on. Similarly, heavy rainfall and storms can result in health problems, including contaminated water, while erosion makes it increasingly difficult for animals to receive the nutritional value they need to develop appropriately.
Future Prospects of Agriculture
The likelihood of droughts and storms and the impact on crops and livestock has painted a grim picture of the industry that people can only change through conscious efforts and sustainable choices. Following are some of the future predictions based on the way extreme weather is affecting agriculture.
1. Food Shortages
The climate crisis has already started affecting the food supply and the problems are expected to worsen. Experts have predicted food shortages soon that might threaten both the local and international food industries.
Furthermore, the UK will likely face more difficulty facing food shortages due to Brexit and its subsequent impact on the agriculture industry.
2. Increased Prices
With food supplies taking a hit and not meeting the local and international demand, the product prices are expected to increase. This is due to the simple law of supply and demand. This change will put extreme pressure on the economy, which is currently recovering from the impact of COVID-19 and faces an uncertain future due to Brexit.
The worst part of the change in prices is that lower-income groups will be the most affected by it without targeted intervention.
3.Shift to Sustainable Agricultural Practices
Most industry leaders consider the impact of extreme weather and want to push for policies to encourage sustainable farming. Sustainable farming practices reduces the burden that the agricultural industry typically adds to the climate crisis, thus scaling back on the extent of the predicted disaster.
However, this conversion can only happen when individual businesses and farmers agree to switching to alternative farming methods and managing livestock.They must also be supported well by the wider industry and governments.
Global warming leading to extreme weather has already led to drastic changes in the agricultural industry that (according to scientists) will worsen without necessary intervention. There is an extensive need for people to invest in and work in the field of sustainable agriculture.
If you are passionate about agriculture and fighting climate change, you can find relevant jobs on our job portal. We offer recruitment services for people in the agriculture industry and are able to successfully connect candidates with employers seeking the skills that they have to offer. You can contact us here.
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