Projects help Peace farmers adapt to climate change

DAWSON CREEK, B.C. — The British Columbia Climate Action Initiative has been working on projects to help Peace region farmers adapt to changing climate conditions.

Each regional plan identified strategies and actions that would enhance agriculture’s ability to adapt to projected climate changes.  

For the Peace, the focus is on weather, water and pests.

Growing Forward 2 provided $300,000 in funding per region, and further funding has come from the B.C. Grain Producers’ Association, the Peace Region Forage Seed Association, the B.C. branch of the Canadian Seed Growers Association and the Peace River Regional District.

An initial report on weather data was completed in 2014. It looked at weather monitoring and data availability and identified gaps.

“We did have a weather station on our property that was managed by the ministry of agriculture, but with funding cuts it is no longer used,” said Dawson Creek grain farmer Irmi Critcher.

“The stations themselves became obsolete. There is data, but nobody knows what to do with it.”

Another project is establishing a collaborative approach to expanding and maintaining the weather monitoring network.

Up to 15 new weather stations will be built, and operators of existing weather stations will be invited to participate in a regional data sharing initiative that includes web data and alerts. The aim is to increase the quantity and quality of weather information to support producer decisions.

“We had a new station installed on our property as part of the project that fills a gap here between the Peace and Kiskatinaw rivers,” said Critcher. “It’s important as there is quite a variance across the region: if you are close to the river or on the other side of the river.”

Another study is examining the feasibility of irrigation.

“There is very little irrigation going on in the Peace,” said Critcher.

“A thorough study needed to take place.”

The study is looking at water amounts and location, how it would be captured and contained, how it would be accessed and the costs.

Another project is a two year pilot to monitor pests, pathogens and weeds.

The study, which is being done with Agriculture Canada, links to the broader data analysis and processing capacity on the Prairies.

When they (Agriculture Canada) showed us data maps, the pests kind of stopped at the Alberta border. It looked like we didn’t have any,” Critcher said.

“But nobody was monitoring.”

Climate Action Initiative manager Emily MacNair said funding for the project is limited.

“I think it is really important that the pest monitoring continues,” she said.

“The whole goal was to set the stage for something that people would want to see carry on.”

Industry is at the table with a funding proposal.

“I think we accomplished what we were hoping to, which was to see whether we can demonstrate through two years of this work, what the value of this might be,” said MacNair. “People are really keen to see it carry on.”

Critcher said producers pay attention to pest monitoring.

“When you get the alert, you start looking for the pest because once you see it with the bare eye from the road, it’s too late. The damage has been done.”

Critcher said she was pleased with the practical and proactive nature of the projects.

“What we have known for the last 20 to 30 years is not going to be the reality for the people who are taking over our farms,” she said.

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