Climate change is a global phenomenon that is impacting lives and livelihoods around the world at a rapid pace. Malta is no exception and the country’s farmers are the ones on the frontlines.
Lovin Malta spoke to Malcolm Borg, the man in charge of the Centre Agriculture, Aquatics & Animal Sciences at MCAST and head of the farmers association Għaqda Bdiewa Attivi, to gather some insight on the matter.
For Borg, climate change could cause a multitude of consequences on Malta’s environment and farming, with summers already getting significantly hotter.
Food production will be severely affected by climate change, as it “relies on fragile balances between nature and the product destined for consumption, with imbalances leading to a decrease in yields and hence a decline in supply”.
“The higher temperatures and longer heatwaves mean that plants and fruit such as peppers, aubergines, watermelons, tomatoes, are being drastically affected and end up getting burnt. Furthermore, the plants of these and other crops are dying out or yielding less due to these high temperatures,” Borg explained.
Borg also outlined how temperatures are also on the rise during other periods of the year, affecting yields of other crops.
“High temperatures in spring killed off olive flowers and hence yielded less olive fruits, for example,” Borg said.
With temperatures rising, that means that more water needs to be used in order to maintain enough hydration for the crops.
“With more water being lost from the plants, the more water farmers need to use to irrigate,” Borg outlined.
And it’s not just plants that are being affected by climate change; animals such as bees are too, with an increase in mortalities being recorded.
“Bees don’t forage at very high temperatures, in turn affecting pollination of crops and bee product yield of honey, and rising temperatures also affect the actual plants they use for foraging,” Borg said.
Meanwhile, winters are also becoming milder and dryer due to rising temperatures, which has drastic consequences on other vital crops.
“Milder winters have a drastic effect on fruit trees such as peaches, vines, and olives, which need to go through a spell of cold weather during the winter called dormancy for them to yield a good amount of fruit in summer. These fruit trees are not going through their dormancy phase adequately due to these milder winters, affecting yields in subsequent summers,” Borg explained.
Flash flooding and extreme storms are increasing – these cause huge losses to farmers due to damages to structures such as greenhouses and actual crops.
The soil quality is also being affected, with flash flooding and the rise in temperatures leading to serious soil erosion.
“Increased temperatures cause increased water losses from the soils which must be replenished by other sources of water such as irrigation from groundwater,” Borg said.
The country also experienced an increase in wildfires this summer, with multiple fires being recorded around the island.
Of course, Malta is not the only country affected by these new realities, but it is a global issue for the production of food and the environment in general.
And as the world hurtles towards a potentially bleak feature, the younger generations will be watching closely to see what authorities can do to alleviate the situation.
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