- Crop Production: irrigation, water management
- Education and Training: extension, networking, study circle, workshop
Problem and Justification
Adapting to climate change is a new imperative for agriculture. Current and projected changes in weather present new opportunities and risks for agriculture in Maine and the Northeast. Longer growing seasons might allow farmers to grow new varieties and crops, but increased risks of spring frosts, summer droughts, wetter/cooler springs, and more frequent and intense rainfall pose serious threats to crop production and farm viability. Seventy-six percent of Maine agricultural service providers who responded to a 2021 survey felt that farmers need additional support to address climate change on their farms, and 79% said they are interested in helping farmers do so. In many cases, practices that farmers and advisors have identified as ones that would help farmers adapt to changing weather patterns (e.g. irrigation, drainage, weather-based decision tools; Johnson et al., 2019; White et al., 2018) require new knowledge and skills, not just for farmers but also for their agricultural service providers. Survey respondents reported feeling least confident in making recommendations related to implementing irrigation systems, managing excess water, changing breeds/varieties, and using weather-based decision tools.
Solution and Approach
The goal of this 3-year plan is to increase agricultural service provider ability to help farmers adapt to climate change by increasing their knowledge, skills, and confidence in providing information and recommendations about specific agricultural practices that address the risks associated with climate change. Each year, we will focus on one climate adaptation practice, such as irrigation. The aim is not to create topic experts, but to help trainees become well-informed advisors who, in the context of their current positions, will help farmers frame the right questions, address relevant considerations, evaluate options, and connect with the most appropriate resources and experts. The educational approach combines on-farm learning, peer-to-peer learning, expert presentations, hands-on experiential learning, and individual learning.
Performance targets from proposal:
44 agricultural service providers who gain practical knowledge and skills in climate adaptation practices (CAPs) will work with at least 2 farmers each to develop a set of customized CAP recommendations for their farms and reach an additional 10 farmers each through one-on-one consultations or educational programs.