Sustainable agriculture: helping EU farmers adapt to climate change

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Extreme weather events like droughts and storms are having a devastating impact on European agriculture. For many farmers, the damage and losses can threaten their very existence. They need to act quickly to protect their livelihoods from climate change. The team at LIFE AgriAdapt has come up with some practical ways to help farmers cope with this problem.

In 2013, the European Commission adopted an EU strategy on how to adapt to climate change. And in 2021, it plans to introduce an even more ambitious plan to help businesses, cities, and people adjust to the situation. Also, the EU’s 2030 Biodiversity strategy aims to encourage organic farming and increase the variety of species on agricultural land. And the EU Pollinators Initiative aims to halt the decline of important pollinating insects like wild bees and butterflies that help crops grow.

The team behind LIFE AgriAdapt, meanwhile, has helped more than 120 farms across Germany, Spain, Estonia, and France deal with the climate change problem. One such farmer is Beate Laible, who runs an arable farm near Heilbronn in southwest Germany. We caught up with her to find out how she made the switch to more ecological agriculture.

How has climate change affected you?

On my farm, I have been dealing with the effects of climate change for quite some time. Three or four years ago, when there were strong autumn storms, I saw for myself the negative impact on my land. We also experienced two years of drought, which was really difficult.

This extreme weather has left us with difficult sowing conditions, less yield, and lower crop quality. We obviously have big concerns.

How did you become involved in LIFE Agri Adapt?

One day, I was reading a local agriculture newspaper and I spotted an advertisement looking for farmers to get in touch with LIFE Agri Adapt. I knew I needed some help, so I decided to contact the team.

How has the project helped you adapt to climate change?

Thanks to the project, I now know a lot more about climate change than before. This new knowledge made me decide to switch to ecological farming.

We are now cultivating the alfalfa plant as well as legumes. They improve the soil’s structure, making it cope better with extreme weather.

We are also making our own organic fertiliser from cattle manure, which cuts down on chemicals.

And we plan to produce organic compost to grow our crops.

Can you tell us about the climate change check?

The climate change check aims to boost farmers' awareness of climate change. It looks at yield data, information from the state statistical office as well as weather and climate projections.

Using this data, the LIFE AgriAdapt team carried out an analysis of my farm, and following this, they gave me suggestions on what changes I could make to better adapt to the effects of climate change.

The team has also developed a useful web tool that gives a lot of information on the adaptation measures, how they work, and their impact.

You can also test your knowledge with a quiz, which I find interesting and very useful.

Are there any improvements you can already tell us about?

I noticed that growing alfalfa penetrates the soil better. It also absorbs water during heavy rain, protecting my land from erosion. There should be other positive changes from the organic fertiliser and compost, but more time is needed to see them.

What are your hopes for the future?

I hope for stable yields and good sales. I also want my soil to be healthy and my land to contain lots of different flora and fauna.

My main wish is that working on this farm will continue to protect the livelihood of my family.

Image: LIFE15 CCA/DE/000072. All rights reserved. Licenced to the European Union under conditions.

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