, Volume 113, Issue 1-2, pp 225-245
Date: 19 Oct 2012

Adapting agriculture to climate change: a review

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Abstract

The agricultural sector is highly vulnerable to future climate changes and climate variability, including increases in the incidence of extreme climate events. Changes in temperature and precipitation will result in changes in land and water regimes that will subsequently affect agricultural productivity. Given the gradual change of climate in the past, historically, farmers have adapted in an autonomous manner. However, with large and discrete climate change anticipated by the end of this century, planned and transformational changes will be needed. In light of these, the focus of this review is on farm-level and farmers responses to the challenges of climate change both spatially and over time. In this review of adapting agriculture to climate change, the nature, extent, and causes of climate change are analyzed and assessed. These provide the context for adapting agriculture to climate change. The review identifies the binding constraints to adaptation at the farm level. Four major priority areas are identified to relax these constraints, where new initiatives would be required, i.e., information generation and dissemination to enhance farm-level awareness, research and development (R&D) in agricultural technology, policy formulation that facilitates appropriate adaptation at the farm level, and strengthening partnerships among the relevant stakeholders. Forging partnerships among R&D providers, policy makers, extension agencies, and farmers would be at the heart of transformational adaptation to climate change at the farm level. In effecting this transformational change, sustained efforts would be needed for the attendant requirements of climate and weather forecasting and innovation, farmer’s training, and further research to improve the quality of information, invention, and application in agriculture. The investment required for these would be highly significant. The review suggests a sequenced approach through grouping research initiatives into short-term, medium-term, and long-term initiatives, with each initiative in one stage contributing to initiatives in a subsequent stage. The learning by doing inherent in such a process-oriented approach is a requirement owing to the many uncertainties associated with climate change.