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Impacts of Climate Change on Agriculture in Vermont

February 17, 2018

Anyone majoring in Sustainable Agriculture knows that it obviously plays an incredibly vital role within the culture and economy of Vermont. More recently, agricultural processes have employed over 10,500 Vermonters, and local and organic foods have become central to the cultural value of the state, according to the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. As climate conditions in the northeastern areas shift as a result of extreme climate change, new methods for producing, processing, and distributing agricultural products are becoming more necessary to retain Vermont’s agricultural activity. One of the most primary long-term impacts of climate change on agriculture according to this study is the seasonal weather shift, which includes changes in temperature and precipitation patterns. Another recent analysis from the VANR found that annual temperatures in the northeast increased by exactly 1.8°F between 1900 and 2000, which is much greater than the global average increase of 1.1°F, which was observed over the same time period. The study also noted an increased rate of warming during the winter months and an average 8-day increase in the growing season, as well as an increase in the frequency of extreme precipitation. Increases in temperature and extreme rainfall could seriously impact Vermont’s agriculture in a series of ways; The spread of pests and pathogens, (which may pressure farmers into heavier use of pesticides and herbicides, or, in the case of organic farms, more labor-intensive weed and pest control) decreased milk productivity in dairy cows, increased erosion due to increases in precipitation, improving conditions for warm weather-loving crops, and more difficulty in cultivating cold-weather crops, and another Increase in short-term drought events, which may lead to a greater demand for higher expenses of irrigation. Under this higher emissions scenario, winter temperatures in southern Vermont may not be cold enough to consistently meet the requirements.

The Vermont Department of Agriculture is already pursuing their emissions reduction strategies; with the 25 x 25 Initiative, a project which aims to generate 25% of Vermont’s energy needs from renewable energy by the year 2025. Seventy-nine percent of that renewable energy is expected to come from active farms, and a number of programs are already in place to make this transition happen. The 25 x 25 steering committee has included renewable energy projects in wind, hydro, solar, biomass, and geothermal power, all of which are expected to help offset the power Vermont currently draws from fossil fuels. The report also includes plans to improve energy efficiency technology- this aims to decrease our reliance on natural resources, reduce and improve usage of agricultural waste, and improve the production of energy crops.

Sources-

Wolfe, D.W., L. Ziska, C. Petzoldt, L. Chase, and K. Hayhoe. 2008. Projected change in climate thresholds in the northeastern U.S.: Implications for crops, pests, livestock, and farmers. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change.

Parsons, Bob. 2011. Opportunities for Agriculture Working Paper Series, Vermont’s Dairy Sector: Is there a Sustainable Future for the 800 lb. gorilla?. Food Systems Research Collaborative, University of Vermont. http://www.foodsystemresearch.net/opportunities-for-agriculture-white-paper-series/. Perkins,

 

 

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