Climate change presents several opportunities and risks for Canada’s agricultural sector. The success of agriculture from year to year is also reliant on several non-climatic factors, such as global economic markets, supply chains, and institutional support. Farmers make decisions based on several factors and being aware of changing trends can promote a risk-aware agricultural sector.
Credits Research and writing: Taylor Livingston, Author; Collaborators: Tim Lynam, Timothy Webster, Kyla Milne, Elaine Barrow, Anne Blondlot, Steven Sobie, Christiane Allen
Warmer conditions and more frequent extreme events will affect land suitability and will change growing conditions from those experienced in the past3. Opportunities include a longer growing season, milder winters, and the ability to introduce new crops4. Risks include the introduction of, or greater persistence of, pests and diseases and more frequent extreme weather events5,6. While climatic factors play a major role in the suitability of land for agriculture, other factors, such as soil type and topography, are also important5,6.
As of 2015, Canada’s wine and grape industry contributed $9.04 billion to the Canadian economy, with Nova Scotia contributing $218,411,000 in economic impact9. Canada’s wine and grape production occurs in southern regions, as wine production in northern parts of the world is generally limited to climates found in the 30° and 50° latitudinal range10.
Especially in the cooler regions of Canada, the number of Growing Degree Days and cold winters, which risk damaging grape vines, are limiting factors for growing grapes10,11. Cold-hardy, short season hybrid grape varieties, such as L’Acadie and Baco Noir, are more common in Nova Scotia than Vitis viniferas varieties, which require more heat units and a longer growing season12,13.
Warmer temperatures due to climate change may provide suitable conditions (see Table 1) to allow for the introduction of higher quality Vitis viniferas varieties, such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay13. However, warmer temperatures also pose new risks, such as increased heat stress and diseases such as powdery mildew, when combined with humid conditions11.
Climate projections for Nova Scotia indicate a substantial increase in Growing Degree Days (10˚C) and a longer frost-free season under climate change. For Nova Scotia in the 1981-2010 period, the median value for Growing Degree Days (10°C) was 861 degree days, and the 10th and 90th percentile values were 818 and 879 degree days. Under RCP 8.5, these values are projected to increase to a median of 1115 degree days, and 10th and 90th percentile values of 1001 and 1254 degree days by 2021-50. Following the thresholds outlined in Table 1, this projected increase would shift the climatic suitability for grape growing from “unsuitable” to “good” for Growing Degree Days (10°C).
To better inform the grape and wine sector, the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture (NSFA) developed the AgriRisk project which aimed to support decision making and resilience building in the province’s grape growing sector. The AgriRisk project developed several tools which pair information on the evolution of critical climate indices with other information relevant for decision making8.
The AgriRisk project also included information on wine sales and a statistical tool, which allow users to assess several factors which affect their operations in conjunction with future climate projections.8 The AgriRisk project provided tools for grape growers, wine producers, and retailers to explore how changes at different points in the value chain can create cascading risks14. The suite of tools developed through the AgriRisk project build resilience to climate change in Nova Scotia’s grape growing sector through a whole value chain approach and multi-faceted access to information about uncertainty, risks, and opportunities.