Climate change is something that affects all of us, and farmers have had to adapt to changes in climate since the inception of farming. But climate change and global warming in recent years has thrown them some curveballs.
Flash floods, extreme heat, drought, hail and windstorms are just some of the issues that farmers have to face on a regular basis. But there are some innovative ways that farmers can adapt to global warming in South Africa. If you want to change your methods and be more prepared for the changes in weather, read below for some helpful information.
Have a plan
One of the first and most important steps to take for introducing any new farming methods is to have a plan. Your farm manager should be given all the information about what you want to do moving forward so that they can formulate a plan that is efficient and effective.
In order to operate more effectively, you will need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and produce more food with land you are already making use of. This will help you to avoid the need for clearing more farmland. Your plan should also include tracking weather information and farm data so that you can make more efficient plans.
Try to diversify crop rotation
Crop rotation is one of the more popular ways to combat global warming in South Africa and is a major aspect of organic farming. It can be understood as the repetitive growing of an ordered succession of crops on the same land over multiple years and is effective at reducing many issues farmers face with crops.
Greater crop diversity above ground will also result in a varied microbe food source and diverse microbial community below. You can diversify your crop rotation by changing one of the crops each time you plant in order to keep the soil healthy. Healthy soil can help to reduce the gases released by tilling, which can contribute to combating climate change.
Wise up on water conservation
Access to fresh water is vital for the success of any farming operation. However, it is important that you do not contribute to wasting this valuable resource. Agriculture consumes a vast amount of the world’s freshwater, which makes water conservation in the agricultural industry fairly urgent.
You could look into creating a tree or shrub buffer around your crop area and nearby rivers to prevent soil erosion and run-off from reaching the streams. Invest in a rainwater catchment tank outside your house or barn so you can use this water for the crops and research no-till farming methods such as drip irrigation. Using less water will help immensely in adapting to climate change and drier weather.
Improve soil quality
No-till farming is an effective way to improve your soil quality, and healthier and more fertile soil is an ideal way to combat global warming in South Africa. You can look into using no-till methods, such as ground cover, to lessen the needs to till the soil.
Healthy soil is able to retain moisture more effectively, keeping plant roots hydrated in arid climates. By using no-till farming you will reduce the amount of erosion that can happen, and using natural compost will eliminate the need for using chemical fertilisers, which will improve the health of your soil. By not tending to the soil as often, you will be limiting the number of greenhouse gasses released too.
Plant more trees
Now, planting more trees might sound like a lot of extra work but it is one of the best ways to help your farm adapt to climate change. A huge amount of deforestation happens due to agricultural expansion, so planting more trees on and around your farm will help to counteract this statistic.
Trees act as windbreaks, they help to prevent soil erosion, they can filter water and crop run-off, and they help to improve the air around your crops. You should be careful not to plant alien invader tree species on your farm, no matter how pretty they look. Rather look for indigenous trees, as they will not cause any issues with the other trees and plants on your property.
Plant crops suited to your area
One effective way to adapt to global warming in South Africa is to plant crops that are more suited to your climate. This means that you should plant drought-resistant crops if you live in an arid area, such as millet, sorghum and legumes.
If you plant crops that are suited to your climate, you will decrease the need to irrigate them as regularly, as they are drought resistant and you can practice crop rotation with a variety of these types of crops to improve the health of your soil. If you are not sure what crops to plant to still make a profit, ask your local agricultural department for advice and a list of crops.