Sharing Skills

Crop Production and Climate Change

If you grow vegetables you’ve probably noticed the change in the weather over the last few years: not as many frosts, long periods of wet weather, long periods of dry, hot weather early in the growing season.

This is causing problems for farmers too.

Wet winters and dry springs have seen recent wheat harvests down by up to 40%. Sugar beet harvests have been down by up to 50% in some cases due to the dry spring and an attack of aphids causing beet yellows virus. Grass yields have also been down by 40%.

Serious effects of climate change may come later to this country than others. The first thing we notice will be food shortages caused by extreme weather events – more floods, more droughts, unseasonal weather and stronger storms. This will lead to reduced crop yields, higher prices, reduced nutritional content of crops and an increase in pests and diseases.

At the moment the UK has the power to buy the food it wants from all over the world but as food shortages increase this will not always be the case.

As the planet continues to warm, some crops may thrive but we will also experience more extreme weather events and more frequently, leading to:

  • crop failures
  • water scarcity
  • effects to animal health
  • more fires
  • insect infestations
  • loss of beneficial insects
  • Floods
  • Droughts
  • storms.

A field in Suffolk during a drought 2022

As the temperatures rise, areas of the world will become unlivable so people from hotter parts of the world will most likely have to migrate to survive, which will also concentrate living and growing areas in a smaller space. These areas of the world that have contributed the least to climate change will be the most affected by it.

Riverfords – British veg faces climate threat

This is all very grim reading for farming and it is not the fault of the farmers. The main concern since the second world war is to grow as much food as possible, as cheaply as possible and we didn’t really know the effect this has been having on our planet.

The WWF have been producing a report every two years on the state of nature since 1998. The 2020 Living Planet Report shows us that wildlife has declined by two thirds in the last fifty years. This is caused by deforestation, illegal wildlife trade and unsustainable agriculture. The farming community is working hard to address the issues while producing enough food to feed the population.

The NFU has produced a report on how agriculture plans to get to Net zero by 2040.