30 Jan 2013

Farmers urged to plan for more weather extremes

1:45 pm on 30 January 2013

The rural sector has been told to plan for more weather extremes in a report that predicts New Zealand will become warmer and wetter by 2040.

The author of the report, the Ministry for Primary Industries, says it is time farmers began thinking about how to manage the likely impact of climate change on their businesses.

Acting deputy director general Julie Collins says the warming climate will bring both risks and rewards to farmers and they need to be prepared for them.

The report predicts the warmer weather will help boost pasture growth and suggests some crops in particular will be producing higher yields.

However there will be both more droughts and more high-rainfall events.

Ms Collins says measures farmers might consider include investing in irrigation and changing some cropping and calving dates to take into account predicted seasonal changes.

The president of Federated Farmers said many New Zealand farmers will be able to reap the rewards of a warmer climate.

Bruce Wills said there may be better plant growth due to a rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

He said likelihood of more frequent and more intense droughts reinforces the need for irrigation schemes around the country.

The findings of the MPI report agree with global climate studies which have found agriculture in southern countries like New Zealand and far northern countries such as Canada and Russia, will be likely to benefit from increasing yields as the planet warms.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation says regions nearer the equator, where most of the world's food is grown and most of the world's people live, are likely to be hardest hit by climate change.

The FAO says productivity and yields in these areas may fall dramatically as the availability of freshwater decreases and flooding increases.