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Climate change could be good for barley, according to the U of A

Climate change could be good for barley, according to the U of A

Researchers found increased carbon dioxide can offset the crop’s need for water

By Diego Flammini
News Reporter

Increased carbon in the air could lead to improved barley yields, according to research from the University of Alberta (U of A).

A team of scientists studied weather patterns and looked ahead to 2064 to assess the water footprint in the barley and beef industries.

Barley watered by Mother Nature could benefit from more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and lead to an increase in yield, according to Monireh Faramarzi, the project’s lead researcher.

“We found that rainfed barley (yield) will increase in most of the province,” she told Global News yesterday. “(Yields of) irrigated barley will be unchanged or slightly reduced in some areas.”

The amount of water per tonnes of barley production will be reduced from 10 to 60 per cent for all barley due to increased carbon, the team found.

“Plants like greenhouse gases, and by consuming more (carbon dioxide), they won’t need as much water to produce the same amount of yield,” Faramarzi told the U of A after the study was published in November. “This (finding) means the irrigated water saved can be directed to different purposes that are more useful for the province.”

And farmers agree that climate change could bring benefits to crop production.

If climate change results in higher temperatures, crops could mature at a quicker rate, according to Jason Lenz, chairman of Alberta Barley.

Jason Lenz
Photo: Alberta Barley

“If climate change increases growing degree days, in certain parts of Alberta, it would make crops grow that much faster,” Lenz told today. “It would definitely be a benefit to barley producing areas north of Calgary, for example.”

Lenz warns, however, that the term “climate change” can refer to a number of items and can change by region, so painting climate change as a broad benefit to agriculture may be inaccurate.

The research team’s full findings can be found in their report, “Modeling future water footprint of barley production in Alberta, Canada: Implications for water use and yields to 2064.”

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