Team takes on climate change (Editorial)
(Aug. 22, 2017) Biology professor and University of Maryland Climate Extension Specialist, Dr. Sara Via, has a message to get to farmers.
She is the energetic leader of the new Climate Science for Farmers Extension Team and she is taking every opportunity she gets to get in front of farmers with her presentation on adapting to the changing climate.
She gave talks at a few winter meetings last year and more recently addressed the annual meeting of the Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts.
Her message: Climate change is real, it is here and that it is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
Weather and climate have always varied, though it has become even more unpredictable.
Witness the false springs of recent years — a warm February followed with freezing temperatures in March or April.
Witness more pests overwintering and spreading farther geographically than before.
Dr. Via says the climate change issues farmers will be dealing with in coming years and decades include longer dry spells in the summer with more rain in the spring and fall.
When rain falls, it’ll be more frequently in heavy downpours, adding to flooding risk, she adds.
Dr. Via’s weather-record data reveals that 2016 was the warmest year ever.
And there is nothing to indicate that 2017 might not challenge it. That’s scary.
Dr. Via’s job, with the help of the dozen or so UME team members, is to counsel farmers on what they can do to counter the effects of the changing climate on their land.
The team includes, from the UME ranks, Jim Lewis, Caroline County ag agent, Nevin Dawson, sustainable agriculture educator, Jerry Brust, Vegetable IPM specialist Andrew Ristvey, specialty crops specialist.
Part of that mission is helping farmers make an adaption plan for climate change.
Courses of action are multiple and USDA already has resources available.
Dr. Via is available at firstname.lastname@example.org to farmers who might be looking for an adaptation plan for their farms.
These issues will no doubt come up in future reports in this newspaper.
Changes in the climate in any direction will have an effect on the crops and animals under farmers’ care.
Adapting to the changing climate coincides with good agronomy and includes many things farmers are already doing.
Soil health improvements like no-till farming and using cover crops help drain excess water in wetter times and hold moisture longer in drier periods. Irrigation and subsoil tilling can help further manage water.
Diligent crop scouting can help curb the spread of pests; staggering plantings and using varieties with heat and drought tolerant qualities also can help in the dry stretches.
Fueling but often paralyzing much advancement in the climate change debate, unfortunately, has been its politicization.
Opinion has become lodged on the left or right, in the Democratic or the GOP stable, or in the conservative or liberal camps.
That is dangerous, because the weather we are experiencing is very real.
Farmers are partners with the weather.
They totally rely on it. There are ways that farmers, now and in the future, can combat or at least alleviate the harm that extreme weather can do to their crops.
That’s Dr. Via’s assignment and her passion. We encourage the farming community to listen.
This new Extension team is yet another tool at the farmer’s disposal to help battle what lies ahead of him or her in the years to come.
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