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How can food and agriculture adapt to climate change?

small soybean plants growing in cracked earth

Diversity in agriculture creates resiliency against climate change according to University of Guelph agricultural and environmental researchers.

The theme of this World Food Day, recognized October 16th 2016, is “The climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too.”

“One of the biggest issues related to climate change is food security” according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. “To meet such a heavy demand, agriculture and food systems will need to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and become more resilient, productive and sustainable.”

For World Food Day, University of Guelph researchers and students considered the question:

How can food and agriculture adapt to climate change and become more resilient, productive and sustainable?”

“Being “climate-smart” through implementing adaptive strategies is the only way to ensure food quality and sustainability in the future. To facilitate the process of becoming climate-smart, the full force of Big Data needs to be harnessed. Big Data can provide insights into how climate change will affect crop and animal production, economy, and health. Big Data can also enable us to empower communities, deliver high quality food, and assist policy-makers make informed decisions to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change.”

Professor Rozita Dara, School of Computer Science


“Climate is one of many factors that affect food security. By recognizing that climatic conditions are changing and by modifying management practices accordingly, food producers, businesses and government agencies can reduce risks associated with changing norms and weather extremes. Food insecurity among the world’s poorest is already being exacerbated by climate change.  Adaptation in the most vulnerable regions will require attention to the underlying constraints associated with ineffective governance, inequitable access to resources, and the like.”

Professor Emertius Barry Smit, Geography


“Modern monocultures can be susceptible to the droughts, diseases, and pests that are associated with climate change. By increasing the diversity in agriculture we can adapt to these challenges so that crops can be more productive, resilient, and sustainable.”

Mark Philpott, Geography student minoring in GIS and Environmental Analysis


“Sustainable food production in a world facing climate change presents a massive global challenge. Adaptation to this changing world – a world projected to increase significantly in population simultaneously — will require agricultural practices that strongly regulate nutrient dynamics locally and globally. Some of these changes may come in more nutrient efficient farming techniques, but other responses will require comprehensive land planning locally and globally, under projected climate change, in a manner that creates a mosaic of productive agricultural hotspots buffered by diverse green spaces.”

Professor Kevin McCann, Integrative Biology


“One thing that I find exciting about the future of food and agriculture is the FAO’s International Year of Pulses. Pulses can act as an alternative to meat in the diet, and can replenish soil nutrients in agriculture. Therefore, eating them is a simple way of adapting to climate change conditions.”

James Vaclavek, 4th year Environmental Governance student.


Food and agriculture can adapt to climate change and become more resilient, productive and sustainable by evolving to become more diverse and integrated.


“Food and agriculture can adapt to climate change and become more resilient, productive and sustainable by evolving to become more diverse and integrated. The basis of adaptation and resilience in nature is diversity and integration and so these are proven principles in this regard. This can be accomplished in many ways but can include some simple measures such as, for example, crop rotation on farms. Developing new crops as new crop rotation options for farmers is part of my research program in collaboration with Dr. Jim Todd of OMAFRA.”

Professor Rene Van Acker, Dean, Ontario Agricultural College


“I believe one of the easiest ways the average household can help ensure the future sustainability of our food system is by lowering consumption of meat protein sources. By reducing meat protein consumption, individuals can have an impact on reducing carbon emissions, and protect land and water resources. Even just choosing an alternative protein source for one day of the week could have a global impact!”

Jenna Zanki, 4th year International Development student, minoring in Plant Science