Photo by Jeb Buchman on Unsplash

Climate change is a threat to farmers who would need to invest more to battle the changing weather and maybe switch crops to more weather resilient ones. 

The summers in Ukraine are getting hotter and hotter and it threatens the Ukrainian agricultural sectors, reports FPRI BMB Ukraine, according to bne IntelliNews. They point out that it isn’t uncommon to see temperatures higher the 40 degrees Celsius in southern Ukraine anymore and that it is a problem for the Ukrainian agricultural sector, which stands for around 10 percent of the country’s GDP and employs 22 percent of the population. 

“Water unavailability and heat stress during periods of increased temperature already impact the yield of the crops,” said Mykola Shlapak, a Kherson-based independent consultant on climate change mitigation, to BMB Ukraine, according to bne IntelliNews.

Shlapak pointed out that climate change is resulting in more extreme weather in general, which also results in heavy rainfall. 

A farmer told BMB Ukraine that “we have to find solutions on our own because the government can’t help with climate change,” and several farmers are reported to have changed crops to more resistant ones to better cope with climate change. The report says that 20 percent of Ukraine’s arable land is in such bad shape that it is unproductive. Only 600,000 hectares of arable land is having a functioning irrigation system, which is much lower than during Soviet times when it was around 2.6 million hectares. 

Not the first to be worried

The concerns raised in BMB Ukraine aren’t the first. Ukrainenu has previously written about the problems in the Ukrainian agricultural sector due to climate change after the record temperatures recorded in 2020. The average temperature rose to 10.9 degrees Celsius in 2020 in Kyiv, which is 3.2 degrees warmer than normal and is the highest that has ever been measured. 11 of the months in 2020 were warmer than normal, and especially the winter months were really hot. 2020 broke a total of 36 heat records.

Anna Ackermann, a board member of the organization Ecoaction Center for Environmental Initiatives, which fights for a green future without CO2, sounded the alarm in an article at the Atlantic Council last year. Among other things, she believes that rising temperatures will mean that Ukraine cannot reach its full potential in the agricultural sector.

“Ukraine’s role as a growing agricultural superpower leaves the country particularly vulnerable to the negative impact of a changing environment. Over the last few decades, the Kyiv climate has gradually migrated south. Winters have become milder and summers are now much warmer. The weather in the Ukrainian capital is increasingly similar to Odesa in the middle of the twentieth century without the benefit of the Black Sea breeze,” she wrote.

Ackermann writes, that the smaller rainfall in 2020 meant that Ukraine lost 570,000 hectares of winter crops and that the country due to too little rain missed the harvest of 200,000 hectares in the summer months.

“This threatens to undermine Ukraine’s status as one of the world’s leading agricultural exporters. During the 2019-2020 marketing season, Ukraine shipped 57 million tons of grain to international markets, representing about 16 percent of global grain exports. However, exports have fallen sharply from year to year in the current season due to less harvest caused by severe drought conditions,” she wrote.

USAID also worried

It is not only Ackermann who sees Ukraine’s agricultural sector as particularly vulnerable to climate change. The US agency USAID also writes that in Ukraine in the future there will be a greater chance of drought, more forest fires, and poorer water quality.

A new study called “Ukrainian agriculture: challenges and ways of development under climate change” looked at what Ukraine needs to do to counteract the problems of climate change in the agricultural sector. The organisation writes, among other things, that farmers must look at the types of crops they use.

“Under the conditions of climate change, an important factor in improving the efficiency of agriculture is a strict distribution of arable land between separate crops with regard to climate change. One of the important measures to improve the crop pattern is to include so-called “niche” crops, which have a significant potential for diversification of the oilseed and grain pattern, which dominates the crops in southern Ukraine,” it reads.

Despite the problems with climate change, the Ukrainian output continues to be record-breaking. You can read more about that here