Agricultural Solutions to Climate Change: Findings from the Manitoba Agricultural Climate Initiative

In 2018 the Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) reported on findings from the Manitoba Agricultural Climate Initiative to support the development of adaptation solutions for Manitoba farmers responding to climate change. In the coming decades, climate change is expected to bring profound changes to agriculture in Manitoba, including exacerbated spring flooding, more variable temperature and precipitation, and extreme weather events. To help farmers address this challenge, Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) created the Manitoba Agricultural Climate Initiative. The Initiative was developed to assist Manitoba farmers with assessing how climate change will impact local agricultural production, understand and prioritize how to manage for these changes and identify key areas that require adaptation. The report outlines specific areas that governments can assist farmers with adapting to changing local conditions.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) first worked towards identifying the risks and opportunities for agriculture in Manitoba under a changing climate. Upon consultation with the Prairie Climate Centre, localized projections specific to agriculture were identified using a tool called the Prairie Climate Atlas, which is a collection of interactive maps. By the 2020’s, the atlas projects that Manitoba’s summer temperatures and precipitation will look more like current day North Dakota. By the 2050’s, the atlas projects that Manitoba’s summers will look more like present-day South Dakota and Nebraska. Finally, by the 2080’s, the atlas forecasts that Manitoba’s summer temperatures and precipitation will likely resemble summers in present-day Kansas and northern Texas. The Climate Atlas also identified opportunities from a changing climate. The atlas suggests that the biggest opportunity for Manitoba farmers is likely to be a longer growing season. The frost-free period across the southern Prairies has already increased by about one month over the last 100 years and is expected to increase by yet another month in the next 50 years. From here KAP consulted farmers across Manitoba sharing climate data and collecting information on the priorities for managing the risks of climate change. To supplement the consultation, KAP performed an analysis of literature to assist in translating the priorities of local farmers into supportive actions the government can take to assist with adapting to climate impacts. The key risks that were identified through the project included new pests, drier summers/droughts, wetter winters and more extreme and less predictable climates.

Identifying Actions

For the overall direction of this project, KAP drew ideas from the BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative, which since 2008, has been developing tools to “enhance agriculture’s ability to adapt to climate change”. This project resulted in the identification of several action items to assist Manitoba farmers adapt to climate change. The first identified action was to collect more robust agriculture-specific climate indices to gain a greater understanding of the risks that farmers will face. A key component of the project was to ensure the climate data could be effectively communicated to farmers (i.e. translating climate variables to agricultural metrics). From here, farmers identified existing challenges that require capacity to cope with climate change impacts. Supporting innovative water management, streamlining water management regulations, facilitating sustainable tile drainage, identifying financing mechanisms for water management infrastructure, utilizing natural infrastructure, reassessing irrigation capacities and preparing for extreme heat were all identified as priority areas for resilience building.

Implementation

After KAP collected insight on priority areas from farmers, key actions the government can take to assist farmers with adapting to climate change were established. Improving weather forecasting, advancing pest early warning systems, aligning messaging and policies for farmers and increasing the flexibility of crop insurance were identified as recommendations for the provincial and federal government. By prioritizing these areas for implementation, Manitoba farmers will have increased capacity for coping with the climate risks they have already and will continue to experience

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

Manitoba farmers have made significant progress with adapting to changing climate conditions over the past decade. In partnership with governments of all levels, the tactics outlined in this report would further advance the resiliency of Manitoba’s agriculture sector. A key takeaway from the report is the importance of innovation networks that support collaboration to implement win-win solutions and support adaptation and resilience efforts.

Next Steps

The findings of this report were provided to the Province of Manitoba to advance the understanding of all levels of government in assisting Manitoba farmers with adapting to climate change.

Resources

Link to Full Case Study

Additional Resources:


Understanding and Assessing Impacts

Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) first worked towards identifying the risks and opportunities for agriculture in Manitoba under a changing climate. Upon consultation with the Prairie Climate Centre, localized projections specific to agriculture were identified using a tool called the Prairie Climate Atlas, which is a collection of interactive maps. By the 2020’s, the atlas projects that Manitoba’s summer temperatures and precipitation will look more like current day North Dakota. By the 2050’s, the atlas projects that Manitoba’s summers will look more like present-day South Dakota and Nebraska. Finally, by the 2080’s, the atlas forecasts that Manitoba’s summer temperatures and precipitation will likely resemble summers in present-day Kansas and northern Texas. The Climate Atlas also identified opportunities from a changing climate. The atlas suggests that the biggest opportunity for Manitoba farmers is likely to be a longer growing season. The frost-free period across the southern Prairies has already increased by about one month over the last 100 years and is expected to increase by yet another month in the next 50 years. From here KAP consulted farmers across Manitoba sharing climate data and collecting information on the priorities for managing the risks of climate change. To supplement the consultation, KAP performed an analysis of literature to assist in translating the priorities of local farmers into supportive actions the government can take to assist with adapting to climate impacts. The key risks that were identified through the project included new pests, drier summers/droughts, wetter winters and more extreme and less predictable climates.

Identifying Actions

For the overall direction of this project, KAP drew ideas from the BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative, which since 2008, has been developing tools to “enhance agriculture’s ability to adapt to climate change”. This project resulted in the identification of several action items to assist Manitoba farmers adapt to climate change. The first identified action was to collect more robust agriculture-specific climate indices to gain a greater understanding of the risks that farmers will face. A key component of the project was to ensure the climate data could be effectively communicated to farmers (i.e. translating climate variables to agricultural metrics). From here, farmers identified existing challenges that require capacity to cope with climate change impacts. Supporting innovative water management, streamlining water management regulations, facilitating sustainable tile drainage, identifying financing mechanisms for water management infrastructure, utilizing natural infrastructure, reassessing irrigation capacities and preparing for extreme heat were all identified as priority areas for resilience building.

Implementation

After KAP collected insight on priority areas from farmers, key actions the government can take to assist farmers with adapting to climate change were established. Improving weather forecasting, advancing pest early warning systems, aligning messaging and policies for farmers and increasing the flexibility of crop insurance were identified as recommendations for the provincial and federal government. By prioritizing these areas for implementation, Manitoba farmers will have increased capacity for coping with the climate risks they have already and will continue to experience

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

Manitoba farmers have made significant progress with adapting to changing climate conditions over the past decade. In partnership with governments of all levels, the tactics outlined in this report would further advance the resiliency of Manitoba’s agriculture sector. A key takeaway from the report is the importance of innovation networks that support collaboration to implement win-win solutions and support adaptation and resilience efforts.

Next Steps

The findings of this report were provided to the Province of Manitoba to advance the understanding of all levels of government in assisting Manitoba farmers with adapting to climate change.

Resources

Link to Full Case Study

Additional Resources: