Growers Adopt New Plans In Response To Climate Change

While the talk around global warming often relates to what might happen in the coming years, the West Michigan fruit growers are already taking proactive steps in relation to what is happening now.

Jeff VanderWerff, a grower, based in Sparta, said he and his brother had devoted a lot of their time monitoring the ever-changing climate patterns.

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“I will admit that my brother and I have given so much of our time to watching climate patterns. We spend a lot of our time reading climate blogs, meteorological articles, and weather services. We are looking at trends, patterns, and all of those things just to get an idea of what is happening around,” VanderWerff said. “I think the farmers of today are much more than farmers. They are constantly looking at the weather more than ever in order to stay ahead of the curve.”

In the last decade, scientists have predicted an increase in the severity of weather anomalies and changes due to the impact of climate change. According to the 2019 United States National Climate Assessment, we would experience more extreme temperatures, droughts, and plagues that will significantly impact farming globally.

“Let’s not sugar-coat it; climate change will adversely impact farming. The good news is that farmers are already anticipating the change. In response, they are developing new techniques to combat the change and its vices,” according to Laura Campbell, manager of the agricultural ecology department at Michigan Farm Bureau.

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What Farmers in the Michigan area are currently battling is an influx of invasive pests that are plaguing the area thanks to climate change. The spotted winged drosophila ((SWD) is one of such pest. Although the pest is small, it has the ability to cause seismic damages. The pest was first found in Michigan in the last decade. Unlike other flies that attack only damaged fruit snacks, the spotted winger drosophila causes damage when the female flies lay eggs into healthy fruits.

“SWD is mainly attracted to soft-fresh fruits. Blueberries, grapes, and cherries are very susceptible to the pest. Right now, it is complicated to control SWD,” Campbell said.

There are sprays that we might use. However they are dangerous to human health and are heavily regulated by law, Campbell added.

Another factor Michigan growers have to contend with is the unusual rainfall. When too much or very little rain falls, it makes it difficult for proper fruit development or harvest.

At the moment, VanderWerff is making plans to adapt to the changes caused by climate change.

“We just have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” He said.

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