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A changing climate is not all bad for agriculture

Tuesday 27 May 2008

A changing climate is not all bad for agriculture

A new report released by MAF shows that not all of the effects of climate change are bad for the agricultural sectors. In some areas, production will potentially increase.

The EcoClimate report, Costs and Benefits of Climate Change and Adaptation to Climate Change in New Zealand. Agriculture: What do we know so far?, examines what the likely impacts of a changing climate on pasture productivity and the economic effect on dairy, sheep and beef farming could be.

Using downscaled global climate change models, the EcoClimate report makes projections on future temperatures, rainfall and droughts across New Zealand.

``The primary production sector is the engine room of our economy and it will be affected by climate change driven by global warming. The first steps in understanding what this could mean for future production in our agricultural sectors have been taken, with the release of the EcoClimate report,’’ says Mike Jebson, MAF’s Director Natural Resources Policy.

``For an average year in the future, the predicted changes are small when averaged across the country, but different parts of the country are affected differently, with the west becoming wetter, the east drier and all of the country becoming warmer. We expect production will increase in Southland and on the West Coast of the South Island but decrease in some North Island East Coast areas and Northland.

``The warmer climate may lead to an earlier start for pasture growth in late winter or spring. Farmers may choose to respond by bringing forward lambing or sowing crops earlier. The EcoClimate report provides us a starting point for further analysis and helps the primary production sector to start planning for the future,’’ says Mr Jebson.

``However, there will still be some challenges for farmers and the need to adapt to the changing climate. Of concern is the projected national decline in production for the driest years in the future, which will be worse than the driest years between 1972–2002,’’ continues Mr Jebson.

``This puts more emphasis on the need to drought proof farms in those areas to ensure our farming systems remain resilient and profitable,’’ says Mr Jebson.

The EcoClimate Report was produced by a consortium of including researchers from NIWA, AgResearch, Motu, Landcare, Infometrics and GNS.

The report is available at


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