Friday, August 10, 2007

Adaptation Pioneers - the Gardeners

The CNN article, Climate change challenging gardeners to plant smarter provides a not-so-scary primer about how people may need to change their habits and preferences to concede to the realities of global warming.

Don't look now, but the early signs of climate change have already landed with a thud in our backyards.

Gardeners across the country have to adapt, the sooner the better, said Todd Forrest, vice president for horticulture and living collections with the New York Botanical Garden.

"That means planting smarter and planting for the future," he said. "The first thing gardeners can do is understand they'll have to live with elevated temperatures, including higher nighttime temperatures. In winter, they'll have less snowfall. Those two changes will have a significant impact on what we can grow."

Growing seasons are changing. Animals are moving more northward and at higher elevations than before, growing ranges for plants are also moving north, and drought-resistant plants are the only option now in many parts of the Southwest. Weeds are growing like...weeds! New kinds of pests are probably invading your plants.

"Those of us living in the northern part of the United States, whether gardeners or farmers, have it easy compared to those south of us with plant pests," Wolfe said. "A lot of (pests) get killed off in winter. But as we get warmer winters, we're getting a higher incidence of plant pests."

Gardeners could adapt by increasing their use of pesticides. "But of course, this has a potential environmental and food safety cost, as well as economic cost," Wolfe said.

Since erratic precipitation patterns are expected to bring droughts followed by deluges, consider planting succulents to survive dry periods. And add rain gardens -- shallow depressions containing water-tolerant plants -- to absorb the flow from heavy downpours.

The article is aimed at U.S.-based gardeners, but the lessons apply to agriculture in general, all over the planet. For gardeners and farmers alike, it ain't like it used to be and it ain't done changing, either.

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