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Agricultural Adaptation to Climate Change

It is important to distinguish adaptation from mitigation in terms of climate change. Adaptation refers to a response to the changing climate and implementation of policies and action taken to minimize the predicted impacts of climate change. An example of adaptation is the development of heat or drought resistant crop cultivars that will be able to grow in warmer climates with potentially less water. Mitigation is an intervention to reduce or prevent GHG emissions or any action that will enhance the removal of atmospheric GHGs through GHG sinks. An example of mitigation would be practicing zero till for agricultural soils, which would reduce the amount of CO2 burned as fuel and prevent the disruption of soil that results in a release of CO2 and N2O.

Adaptation has the potential to reduce the magnitude of the challenges associated with climate change and to take advantage of the possible benefits. Improved land management, maintenance of soil carbon content and efficient use of fertilizers and irrigation have been shown to be environmentally effective and synergistic with sustainable development (IPCC, 2007), thereby promoting their implementation. New plant species and hybrids that are resistant to drought and heat, as well as development of policies and practices that increase the flexibility of agricultural systems are being examined for their ability to adapt to the current and future climate (Warren et al., 2004).

MAFRD is currently developing a provincial agricultural climate change adaptation strategy. This strategy will consider the climate change impacts and how they will affect agriculture. It will assess the sector's vulnerability to each of the impacts and prioritize the risks the industry will face. It will also identify adaptation options to allow agriculture to respond to the negative impacts and take advantage of any new opportunities that may exist. The adaptation strategy will be referenced when developing policies, programming and working in extension, all of which will provide valuable information to the industry.

Agriculture is dynamic; the sector is constantly adapting to stressors such as market and weather changes. With the publication of new research, the availability of information through extension and the implementation of sustainable management practices, agriculture can adapt to and meet the challenges presented by climate change.

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