NASA reports potential megadrought; CSA becomes increasingly important
A few weeks ago we discussed climate smart agriculture (CSA) and how it’s time to start considering how the changes in climate and weather can harm our food supply and alter growing techniques. While shifting growing techniques can be intimidating, this week’s report from NASA shows the importance for those in agricultural communities around the world to make proactive changes.
It may sound similar to the plot of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, but this study is a reality. NASA, Cornell and Columbia researchers are warning of a potential megadrought, and if climate change continues to develop at its current speed, researchers believe that there is an 80 percent chance that it could happen between 2055 and 2099[i]. Most affected by this would be the southwestern region of the United States, as well as the Plains states.
While a megadrought isn’t usually more severe on a day-to-day basis than a standard drought, its longevity is what makes it so dangerous. While the southwest is currently experiencing severe drought conditions, a megadraught could be even more devastating, increasing wildfires, harming ecosystems and putting the already tenuous state of our global food security in greater jeopardy.
Climate smart agriculture featuring controlled environments will no doubt become even more essential to our food systems, and just considering the basics of controlled environment agriculture (CEA) – and more specifically hydroponics – we can see how these non-traditional methods can offer some help in limiting how a prospective megadrought can alter established agriculture.
Growing hydroponically in a controlled environment enables plants to be grown outside of their natural climate. Here in Connecticut we’ve had an onslaught of snow over the past three weeks, but if you were to look into our grow rooms, you might think it’s June or July. Between the heads of fresh lettuce, cherry tomatoes and the fresh strawberries, it is easy to forget that there has perpetually been three feet of snow over the past month.
So with hydroponics, farmers could reduce how climate influences crop production and have the opportunity to grow year-round, but CEA’s ability to reduce water usage and maximize growing space is what makes it truly special. When implemented correctly and efficiently, hydroponics enables farmers and growers to use 1/30 of the water necessary for many current operations. A hydroponic acre can also yield up to 10,000 plants, which can be as much as three times the amount of traditional practices.
It can be difficult to predict how a megadraught will affect pests. However, using a controlled environment can circumvent this issue and provide year-round protection to crops.
This will certainly be a continuing story, and with so many implications throughout the global agricultural community it is certainly one we will continue to discuss and look into.
For those looking to learn more about CEA, we offer a three-day CEA School geared towards growers of all experience levels. The class covers the latest trends and techniques in controlled environment agriculture, hydroponics and aquaponics. If you have any questions regarding CSA or CEA, feel free to leave us a comment.