Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Food to cost more, be of poorer quality, often tasteless or scarce as the number of very hot days per year keep increasing in Australia

The bad news continues.....

APPETITE FOR CHANGE GLOBAL WARMING IMPACTS ON FOOD AND FARMING REGIONS IN AUSTRALIA (Melbourne University, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, March 2015):

With 93% of the food we eat grown here in Australia, the future of Australian farming matters to all of us. Australia is lucky to have a strong agricultural sector that plays a pivotal role in contributing to the Australian economy and defining Australian culture.

In 2012-13 the gross value of total Australian agricultural production was $48 billion.  But Australian agriculture is at a turning point. We are halfway through what scientists refer to as the ‘critical decade’ to act on climate change. And with less than a 1-degree global average rise in temperatures, climate change is already impacting a suite of Australian-grown commodities and will continue to impact farmers if stronger global efforts to reduce carbon pollution are not forthcoming.

Australian agriculture is heavily reliant on predictable rainfall and temperature to maintain production of high quality food. Australian farmers have always faced a highly variable climate, but now climate change adds significant additional complexity to their management.

According to the CSIRO, production from cropping and livestock is projected to decline by 2030 over much of southern Australia due to increased drought and the fact that the availability of nutrients will limit productivity in most Australian landscapes. Heat and drought are likely to reduce the quality of grain, grape, vegetable, fruit, and other crops. A 20% reduction in rainfall could reduce pasture productivity by 15%, and livestock weight gain by 12%, which would substantially reduce farm income.

There is likely to be a southward movement of pests and diseases as the southern regions warm.  Food production in Australia will need to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change. But there are limits to the temperatures and extreme weather events that farmers will be able to adapt to. Some industries are already relocating to new regions now more suited to their production systems, causing disruption to rural communities. …..

Excerpt from accompanying media release, 15 March 2015:

Key findings of the report reveal that:

* Dairy foods are likely to be affected by warmer temperatures and more heat waves, as heat stress on dairy cows typically reduces milk yield by 10-25 per cent, and by up to 40 per cent in extreme heat wave conditions.

* A warmer and drier climate will pose significant challenges to beef production systems in southern Australia. Southern pasture growing seasons are expected to contract, while increased heat stress may lead farmers to choose more heat tolerant cattle breeds possibly of lower meat-eating

* Warmer temperatures adversely affect the flavour of carrots, as well as their texture and physical structure. Higher temperatures associated with climate change are likely to make carrot production less viable in warmer areas with shifts to cooler regions such as Tasmania.

* Extremely hot weather can reduce the quality of bee honey and has other flow-on effects such as reduced pollination for fruit trees.

* Higher temperatures and humidity can cause “late blight” in potatoes, which rots the tubers and makes them inedible.

* Chickens are sensitive to heat stress, which will affect the quality of their meat. Increased droughts around the world are also leading to more volatility in the price of grain used to feed chicken.

* Temperatures above 27°C will potentially cause bolting (prematurely running to seed) and poor colouring in beetroots.

* Climate change is likely to reduce reliable rainfall and place pressure on water availability in Australia’s current major rice-growing regions.

* Rainfall and temperature changes will affect wheat growth, with lower and more variable production forecasted. The zinc and iron concentrations of Australian wheat are projected to be 5-10 per cent lower by the middle of the century, adding to pressures associated with malnutrition.

* Climate change is acidifying our coastal waters making it harder for shellfish to build their shells.

* Fruit trees and nuts in southern Australia will not get cold enough in winter to signal fruit development.

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