New Zealand

NIWA urges farmers to prepare for climate change

NIWA is encouraging farmers to plan for climate change so they can maximise their abilities to adapt and thrive as significant change begins to take place.

Dr Sam Dean, NIWA's chief scientist of climate, says while farmers are known for their resilience and ability to adapt to changing conditions, climate change will almost certainly go beyond any previous experience.

NIWA is focusing on assisting farmers to plan for a changng climate at its Fieldays stand next week. Using highly detailed computer graphics, farmers will be able to find out what climate change might look like on their farm, and explore the choices they face.

"I want people to be informed to make decisions based on good science," Dr Dean says. "And I think it's important we try to understand how much climate change is likely to affect New Zealand in the years ahead."

Climate changes expected for New Zealand include:
An increase in the mean annual temperature across the country even if global greenhouse emissions stabilise.
Fewer frosts and more hot days where the temperature will be greater than 25°C.
Changing rainfall patterns with more rain in the west and south and less in the east and north.
More extreme rainfall events with more rain, more flooding and stronger, more damaging winds.
More drought in some parts.
Dr Dean says New Zealanders are in the "unique position of knowing what our choices are".

"Once you understand significant change is coming, and some of is now inevitable, planning how we will adapt and thrive becomes a priority. We believe that optimising current farming practices is one of the most effective adaptation strategies."

Farmers can expect climate change to affect a range of on-farm activities, including harvest times, crop choice, productivity, irrigation, groundwater recharge and pasture growth.

Extreme weather events could also put strain on water resources or lead to flooding and damage to infrastructure.

Farmers visiting NIWA's Fieldays stand this year will also be able to play a large board game that pits natural disaster against planning ahead. Farmers can also collect a workbook that acts as a starting point for developing a farm business climate change strategy. It is intended to provide a framework for thinking about the challenges and opportunities climate change will bring.

NIWA offers a range of services designed to help farmers and growers make confident and informed operational decisions, such as when and where to irrigate, fertilise, spray, harvest and move stock.

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