The horticulture and landscape industry is already being affected by climate change, but we are yet to see the worst effects. The expected mean warming of 0.2°C over most of Australia by 2030 will bring new challenges and opportunities to the those of us who work with plants .
Defining Climate Change
Climate change refers to the long-term shifts in global weather patterns caused by human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. This change is having a significant impact on the planet, including rising temperatures and more frequent and intense natural disasters.
The horticulture industry, which includes landscaping, arboriculture, and agriculture, is also feeling the effects of climate change. This industry relies heavily on the health of plants and trees, and changes in growing conditions due to climate change can have far-reaching impacts.
It’s important to discuss the impact of climate change on the horticulture industry as it highlights the need for continued action and investment in sustainability and adaptation.
Defining the Horticulture Industry
The horticulture industry refers to the cultivation, production, sale, installation, and care of plants and trees for both aesthetic and commercial purposes, as well as the individuals and organisations involved. This includes everything from small mowing businesses to large-scale agriculture operations.
Landscaping refers to the design, construction and maintenance of outdoor spaces, for private, commercial or public use. Arboriculture involves the care and management of trees, including pruning, planting, and removal. Agriculture is the practice of cultivating crops and raising livestock for food, fibre, and fuel.
The horticulture industry is important because it provides a significant source of employment and contributes to the economy, while also providing aesthetic and environmental benefits to communities.
Climate Change and its Impacts on Plants and the Horticulture Industry
The impacts of climate change are interrelated and can harm food production, human health, and lead to disease spread and damages to ecosystems and infrastructure . Climate change is considered a risk to horticulture production and quality .
One of the most significant impacts of climate change on the horticulture industry is the changes in growing conditions. Rising temperatures can cause plants to grow more quickly, but also make them more susceptible to heat stress and pests.
One of the most critical concerns for the industry is rainfall . Changes in rainfall patterns can also lead to soil degradation and decreased water availability, or the opposite problem of over-watering which encourages fungal disease and other issues.
In addition to temperature and rainfall changes, climate change can also cause shifts in growing zones. This can lead to new opportunities for certain crops and plants, but also lead to the loss of others.
Overall, the changes in growing conditions due to climate change can be challenging for the horticulture industry, but we must acknowledge they also create new opportunities for innovation and adaptation.
Rising temperatures can increase the risk of pests and diseases, leading to decreased growth rates and reduced yields. Changes in rainfall patterns can also cause soil degradation, which can harm the health of plants and trees.
Timing of flowering and fruiting in plants and trees can also be affected by climate change because it can disrupt their life cycle and have impacts on the surrounding ecosystem.
Landscapes with more plant diversity are more resilient to environmental changes such as extreme heat and drought and support pollinators and beneficial insects . Planning for hotter temperatures when selecting plant species is key.
Opportunities in the Horticulture Industry in a Changing Climate
As the climate changes, the Horticulture Industry is faced with both challenges and opportunities. One of the key opportunities is the development of new products and services that can help mitigate the effects of climate change.
Adaptation and land management practices play an important role in building resilience and mitigating the physical impacts of climate change in the land sector . A drier climate will reduce the availability of water and increase the cost of water for horticulture, so managers will need to improve irrigation practices. To successfully adapt to climate change, it may be possible to change the crop or enterprise type and improve the financial return per unit of water used .
Energy-efficient equipment and tools can reduce the carbon footprint of the industry, making it more environmentally friendly. Petrol machines are fitted with carbon filters to minimise pollutants and lithium ion technology is becoming more widely adopted within the industry. Read more about the pros and cons of petrol vs lithium ion technology here.
As awareness of the effects of climate change grows, more clients are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and protect the environment. As a result, the demand for sustainable and low-maintenance gardens that promote biodiversity and feature native plants is on the rise, presenting a new opportunity for horticulture businesses to cater to this market segment.
Another opportunity is the expansion of green spaces in urban areas. Climate change has led to increased demand for green spaces in cities, as people seek refuge from the heat and other impacts of warmer temperatures. This has resulted in an increased demand for street trees, parks and public spaces. Urban green spaces provide a range of benefits, including reducing air pollution, improving mental health and promoting physical activity.
Challenges for the Horticulture Industry in a Changing Climate
Obviously, it’s not all good news. The Horticulture Industry is facing a number of challenges as a result of climate change which are mainly due to the costs of adaptation and competition for resources, setting aside existential threats like biodiversity collapse and rising sea levels.
The cost of adapting to climate change is a major challenge for the Horticulture Industry. New technologies and upgrades in equipment and infrastructure can be expensive. In addition, the industry must invest in training and education for workers, in order to keep up with the changing climate.
The competition for resources, such as water and arable land, is also a challenge for the production sector of the Horticulture Industry. Climate change has led to changes in rainfall patterns, making water a scarce resource in some areas. The price of raw materials, such as seeds and fertiliser, is also becoming increasingly volatile.
Finally, the industry is facing difficulties in securing loans and financing, which is making it harder for farmers to invest in new technologies and equipment .
The impact of climate change on the Horticulture Industry is significant, presenting both opportunities and challenges. The industry has the opportunity to develop new products and services, and to expand green spaces in urban areas. However, it’s also facing challenges due to the costs of adaptation and competition for resources. It is important to continue discussing the impact of climate change on the Horticulture Industry and to take action to mitigate its effects.