Okanagan producers adopt climate adaptation strategy

Agricultural producers and local governments in the Okanagan region are getting ready for the possibility of hotter, drier summers and different pest pressures under climate change.

The B.C. Agriculture and Food Climate Action Initiative (CAI) brought agricultural producers together with local governments and provincial agencies to identify collaborative solutions and actions to adapt to the challenges facing the sector.

A newly released adaptation plan outlines the priority impact areas and a series of strategies to strengthen the resilience of the Okanagan agriculture sector in a changing climate, according to a release.

“Agricultural producers in the Okanagan need to be aware of the potential impacts of climate change and start planning for the future,” said Erin Carlson, who represents the B.C. Cherry Association on the Climate Adaptation Advisory Committee. “This strategy is an important starting point. It has brought focus to the discussion and resources necessary to start moving plans into action.”

The initiative is being supported by a $300,000 investment from the federal and provincial governments through Growing Forward 2.

Climate models show a strong warming trend for the Okanagan, particularly in the summer. Precipitation is expected to decrease in the summer, and increase in the winter, with a marked decrease in the amount falling as snow, the release says.

Extreme weather events are also expected to become more frequent and more severe. Changes to temperature and precipitation patterns will impact river systems, resulting in less predictability and increased variability in the timing and volume of water flows. Warmer temperatures and higher rates of evapotranspiration will increase demand for irrigation and put pressure on water storage.

“For growers, these changes could have a significant impact on crop yields and quality, as well as increasing the cost of securing the water needed for production,” Carlson said. “We need to be prepared to manage the risks of shifting weather patterns and extreme weather events, as they have the potential to be devastating for the fruit crops that our region is known for.”

The Okanagan Regional Adaptation Strategies report identifies four priority impact areas:

  • Warmer and drier summer conditions
  • Changes to pest populations;
  • Increase in extreme precipitation events;
  • Increasing wildfire risk

As the action plan is implemented, project results will be shared with the intent of bringing new information, resources, tools and practices into use across the province.

The BC Agriculture and Food Climate Action Initiative was established by the BC Agriculture Council in 2008, and is led by an advisory committee of agricultural producers, food processors and representatives from various government agencies. The Initiative has been supported by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC with funding provided by

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the BC Ministry of Agriculture through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

For more information on The Okanagan Regional Adaptation Strategies visit the Climate Action Initiative website.

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