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Researcher: Future of Food Depends on Climate Resilience

Researcher Laura Lengnick, left, says warmer winters followed by late freezes are impacting fruit crops such as grapes. (Lengnick)
Researcher Laura Lengnick, left, says warmer winters followed by late freezes are impacting fruit crops such as grapes. (Lengnick)
January 9, 2020

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

And an agricultural researcher says 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, explains that growers have experienced reduced yields in recent years because of heavy, flooding rains followed by increased dry spells. She says 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 points out.

Lengnick says 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 states. "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 on Feb. 14.

Lengnick notes that 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 states.

Lengnick says 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 stresses. "It's a big shift and it's a way that we all can support a more resilient agriculture and food system."

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH