Future Landscapes

Drought: What to Grow and Where?

This webinar discussed the on-farm effects of projected changes in climate, such as a shift in pasture growth season, land use opportunities that might arise, and how we make decisions when the future is uncertain.

Gladstone farmer regards his ravaged pasture during the 2007-2008 Wairarapa drought. Photo taken by Alan Blacklock in March 2008.

The following article summarises the third of three webinars on drought and the changing climate, part of the Growing Kai Under Increasing Dry rolling Symposium held in May 2021, a collaboration between the Deep South, Resilience to Nature's Challenges, and Our Land and Water National Science Challenges.

This webinar investigated the potential effects of projected climate changes on land-use suitability and future decision-making, in particular:

  • What are the implications of future drought?
  • What will it mean for farmers and growers?
  • What are the limitations and opportunities that may present themselves with this changing climate?
  • How do we prepare and make decisions when the future is uncertain?
  • How could planning, policy, data and decision-making be informed by Mātauranga Māori?

Researchers from Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research and Lincoln University discussed what changes need to be made in the policy and decision-making space.

Growing Kai Under Increasing Dry webinar three, 25 May 2021

Anne-Gaelle Aussiel

Anne-Gaelle Ausseil, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, is an environmental scientist focussing on land-use and climate change impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services.

There are three types of adaptation: tactical (such as changing seed sowing dates), strategic (such as establishing new infrastructure and species), and transformational (such as land-use change). Each of these can be considered in Aotearoa New Zealand’s approach to meeting future challenges.

What are some future considerations for farmers?

  • Animals are likely to experience a higher risk of heat stress in the future, especially in Canterbury and the central North Island.
  • There could be an increase in pasture yield under climate change due to additional CO2. This could shift seasonally, resulting in more pasture in winter and spring, and less in summer. This will have implications for irrigation demand.
  • Yield of crops could change. For example, maize yield could decrease in the North Island and increase in the South Island. Adaptation such as sowing crops earlier in the season could counteract these effects.
  • Climate change could impact the timing of grape development in the viticulture industry, advancing flowering time by up to four weeks for a Central Otago Pinot Noir.

Further information is being gathered on the growing requirements for different crop and horticulture options in order to identify which cultivars might be more compatible with changing soil moisture levels.

Anita Wreford

Anita Wreford is a Lincoln University economist and leader of The Deep South Challenge’s Impacts and Implications programme. She is experienced across many areas of climate change, including economic evaluations of adaptation and applying robust methods to deal with climate uncertainty.

Decision-making is challenging. The more local our climate modelling and the further ahead we look, the greater the uncertainty. And yet, we can start to incorporate adaptation into our near-term decision-making so the changes we make are more resilient.

What is important for decision-making?

  • If there is an opportunity to invest in land, think about whether it is in an area that is likely to continue to be suitable for the kind of production you want.
  • For the longer-term, ideally it is best to be flexible and avoid making decisions that preclude subsequent changes.
  • Some decisions do need to be made sooner rather than later. Water storage, for example, is useful to allow us to smooth out some of the variability associated with changes in climate, but is a large, irreversible investment. Building a dam that is too big or too small is problematic, but a method called ‘real options analysis’ can help in future-oriented decision-making.
  • New research is looking at the question: “At what point does increasing drought frequency trigger land use change?”

Everyone has different roles in adaptation, for example, breeding and species development might be a role for industry. Regardless of what part of the primary sector one inhabits, everyone should be planning, monitoring and gathering data.

“Uncertainty is challenging but is no reason for inaction.”

— Anita Wreford, Lincoln University

Shaun Awatere

Shaun Awatere is a Senior Kairangahau at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research and a Theme Leader with Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, New Zealand’s Māori Centre of Research Excellence. Shaun’s work involves improving the incorporation of Māori values into economic decision-making for collective assets.

For about 600 years, those in Aotearoa lived according to Māori values, in harmony with te Taiao (the natural world), and this led to the creation of cultivation mosaics tightly matched to microclimates in the landscape.

By contrast, since the 1980s, government schemes and incentives have actively encouraged pastoral farming in unsuitable areas, with negative impacts on natural systems. For Ngāti Porou, for example, deforestation has led to erosion, sedimentation, and loss of indigenous biodiversity. This has a profound impact on Māori cultural values.

Māori land-use decisions involve large numbers of people across generations. In order to support culturally aligned decision-making about the whenua, a Values Framework has been developed. Shaun’s research tested the application of this framework in a real world setting by walking a piece of jointly-owned land with shareholders, sharing knowledge about biophysical observations and culturally significant sites, and discussing potential economic returns of land use options (over an intergenerational time frame).

Assessing options with reference to the core values of kaitiakitanga, manaakitanga and whakatipu rawa, meant that decisions were not based primarily on externally provided advice with a weighting toward financial gains, but rather, honoured deeper values. Within this process, place-based and ancestral knowledge is incredibly useful.

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Jo-Anne Hazel

Jo is a 'knowledge herder' who specialises in bringing together knowledge and insights from a variety of sources.

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