Skip to content

Future of food depends on climate resilience, agricultural researcher says

"Winters are warming, fruit trees are blooming earlier, and then we're losing crops because we have a late freeze that kills the blossoms," the researcher said.
Farming 01102020
Getty Images

COLUMBUS — Without a sustained cold snap yet this winter, Ohio again is experiencing an odd season.

And an agricultural researcher said these unconventional weather patterns and other impacts of climate change are threatening the future of the food system.

Soil scientist and educator Laura Lengnick, founder and principal consultant for Cultivating Resilience, said growers have experienced reduced yields in recent years because of heavy, flooding rains followed by increased dry spells. She said there are other, more subtle, effects on food production.

"Winters are warming, fruit trees are blooming earlier, and then we're losing crops because we have a late freeze that kills the blossoms," she said.

Lengnick said the good news is the growing interest in sustainable farming practices that can slow down climate change by trapping carbon.

"Midwest farmers are leading this change, actually, in agriculture, and that is really focusing in on building soil health," she said. "For example, no till, cover crops and more diversified cropping systems."

Lengnick will dive deeper into the agricultural solutions to climate change during her keynote address, "Climate Change, Resilience, and the Future of Food," at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association's annual conference Feb. 14.

Lengnick said resilience is not just about bouncing back from climate impacts, but also reducing future risks.

"There's a lot we can learn from resilience thinking about how to change the way that we've organized our food system, so that when these disturbances happen, there's less damage or maybe even no damage so we never need to bounce back," she said.

Lengnick said our food choices also play a role in slowing down and reversing climate change.

"I urge consumers to look for and support products, farmers and products that are using these kinds of sustainable agriculture tools," she said. "It's a big shift, and it's a way that we all can support a more resilient agriculture and food system."