Home ›› Climate

Extreme weather to impact farming for next 10 years: experts

Xinhua/UNB . Wellington
05 Feb 2024 14:37:25 | Update: 05 Feb 2024 14:37:25
Extreme weather to impact farming for next 10 years: experts
— File Photo

New Zealand's primary industry experts believe climate change, extreme weather events and water quality are the three biggest challenges likely to affect agriculture in New Zealand for the next 10 years.

More than 280 leaders in agribusiness and Maori enterprises, policymakers and academics were asked to rank over 70 international and domestic "drivers" to understand how much they are expected to affect land use in New Zealand in the upcoming decade, according to a study released on Monday by the Lincoln University.

Among the drivers investigated such as nanotechnology, Maori values and trade policy, nearly all experts cited climate change and extreme weather events as the two most critical drivers, followed closely by water quality and agricultural policy as major domestic concerns, and greenhouse gas emissions and trade agreements as pressing international issues.

The experts were asked to freely identify and rank their three most unprompted issues for the near future, prior to seeing the list of drivers. They unequivocally chose climate change as the biggest concern, the study said.

"This research captures the zeitgeist of the New Zealand primary sector very well," said Tim Driver, research lead at Lincoln University.

Driver highlighted the widespread devastation caused by the catastrophic flooding of Cyclone Gabrielle in early 2023, New Zealand's costliest non-earthquake natural disaster, with an estimated 2 billion NZ dollars (1.21 billion U.S. dollars) of damage to the food and fiber sector.

It is also notable that water quality is ranked highly as a pressing issue when looking across the findings, similar to previous years' iterations of the study, he said.

"Producers have got this dual pressure of maintaining production versus reducing the environmental impacts, particularly in more intensive sectors such as dairy," Driver said.

The researchers suggest that artificial intelligence could be an emerging game changer in helping producers adapt to climate change and extreme weather events, such as it recently helping farmers in Britain to choose the right seeds to grow in specific weather conditions.

The complexity of all the drivers acting together means issues, such as animal welfare, environmental policies, consumer demands for more ethical production, the financial sector's move towards ethical and social investing criteria, and the potential effects of war on international trading, should be included in decision-making.