Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

RANCH MUSINGS: Predictions of climate variability and effects on agriculture

Oliver Rujanschi, we will miss you and the warmth that you were. Sorry friend

As I sit to write this, it is with heaviness of the news that a family friend has been found passed away. It leaves those closest wondering what more they could have done to reach out.

Oliver Rujanschi, we will miss you and the warmth that you were. Sorry friend!

And, we are all reeling with the tragic depth of the discovery of many, many buried innocent children at the Kamloops residential school.


A few years ago many of us interested in the impacts of climate change got together with the BC Government Climate Action unit from the Ministry of Agriculture, to chart a strategy for dealing with the impacts predicted.

The projections on temperature for 30 years from now (2050) were 2.1 to 4.1 degrees Celsius in annual average temperatures. With this comes 35-64 more frost-free days.

On the precipitation front, we might expect 5.1 per cent increase annually, and a 27 per cent decrease falling as snow. In all likelihood summers will be drier.

The extremes can involve and increase the frequency and magnitude of extreme rainfall events. The average number of days over 30C will increase annually.

With this information in hand, producers and stakeholder identified top five climate issues.

First, there was the increase in wildfire risk. The region subsequently experienced significant wildfire seasons in 2009, 2010 and 2012. Following, 2017 and 2018 saw record-breaking fires. Burning 1.1 million hectares (over 2 million acres).

Second, changing hydrology affects us in the following ways: Warmer and drier summers reduced water supply while increasing the water need for crops and livestock. The summers of 2019 and 2020 saw a number of farms and ranches drastically affected by flood events.

Third, the increase in variability was of great concern to producers, specifically: unpredictable storm events, temperature/precipitation fluctuations and extremes, and freeze thaw cycles.

Fourth, changes in pests, diseases and invasive species, are upon us. While we know about the impacts of the Mountain Pine Beetle, we know fire ants, cutworms and the grey tortix moth are emerging as major. Partly this is due to the warmer winters.

READ MORE: Drier weather good for calving season

Fifth, there will be changes to wildlife and ecological systems: the ecological communities and water resources on Cariboo rangelands are shifting, which is altering forage productivity.

On all of these fronts, producers and government have moved forward on projects.

There is much more to report and I direct interested readers to Climate Action Agriculture at www.climateagriculturebc.ca/regional-adaptation/cariboo/.

Many projects are highlighted there.

Producer leaders have been working hard with governments to give oversight to studies and trials designed to benefit food production in our home region.

When we have certainty of forthcoming tragedy, or even just inklings of it, we are duty bound to our fellow living beings to act. The same goes for the human personal and societal tragedies past and future that I alluded to in my opening lines.

Soil is the skin of organism Earth. Human and Earth health are one.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.



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