When global warming reinvents the map of agricultural land

We expected everything, except… It is enough to drive two hours out of Paris to find yourself confronted with these ordinary looking fields that are regularly observed during our various trips. From a distance they looked like ears of corn golden in the summer sun. But looks can be deceiving… Moreover, if you look closely, these ears don’t look that familiar. This is all quite normal because it’s sorghum, not corn! Sorghum in our regions? What a funny idea! Sorghum, which is the fifth grain in the world after corn, rice, wheat and barley, remains relatively unknown in our regions. And for good reason: domesticated several millennia ago in the Sahel in Africa, from the same family as millet or sorghum, it is one of the staples of the Sub-Saharan diet, but is still underused in gastronomy. . However, a deal that could change and sooner than we think… As global warming forces, French farmers are now looking for comprehensive solutions to their problems. Especially among the latter, hail, frost, floods and repeated heat waves year after year undermine their work, sometimes raising questions about the maintenance of tricolor agriculture with sufficient productivity. Another concern that gradually became an obsession: this summer, water shortages became a constant concern for the entire branch. You need to see and read the numbers. In this case, by June 2022, even though high temperatures had not yet risen, our country already had a 33% water shortage. Later, because of the heat wave, we learned that July 2022 was the least abundant month since meteorological records began. August was then a month of warning against limitations and scarcity.

Sorghum solution

Tired of living off state aid and other meager subsidies from insurers, many farmers, running out of solutions, have thrown in the towel. Others have decided to reinvent their profession by improving their skills. Thus, instead of insisting on growing corn, which became a problem due to the need for irrigation, they turned to the increasingly popular sorghum, creating a French industry. On paper, cereals seem to be anything but beneficial. In terms of nutrients, it is rich in iron, zinc, calcium and vitamin B9. But above all, the ability to adapt to the consequences of global warming and drought, the reduction of the demand for phytosanitary products and the agrotechnical advantages of this plant with a highly developed root system make it a dream solution to the problems faced by French agriculture. . The numbers show this enthusiasm well: in Europe, the area devoted to sorghum production increased by 20% in 2020. In France, especially according to figures published by Semence Mag[1], the area covered by these cereals has increased by more than 50% in the last four years. From animal feed to human consumption, the example of sorghum is iconic, especially because of the many outlets it offers. And it seems far from isolated. The four corners of the planet are witnessing rapid, new and equally spectacular changes. From there, there is a step towards rethinking an entire physical and food geography, a step happily taken by those who don’t want to sit back and wait…

Coffee in Sicily, champagne in England, wheat in Norway and Canada…

So let’s look at this phenomenon on a global scale: as the earth warms, farmland will “displace”, that is, one area will be replaced by another. This creates some inconsistencies or wonder crimes to the taste of purists, especially when champagne producers turn their eyes to the south of England as their new chosen territory. Or he could never have imagined twenty years ago, when Sweden started growing wheat. Not to mention Sicily, nicknamed “the bread basket of Italy” and long famous for its citrus fruits. However, due to the lack of water, lemons and oranges are gradually replaced by mangoes, coffee, cocoa or even papaya.… A real revolution in the Mediterranean diet that bodes well for tomorrow’s shake-up. Undoubtedly, agrarian geography is in complete mutation. A person who faces this situation adapts. And some countries do better than others. To understand this, we need to turn to meteorological records. While heat records have been broken everywhere this summer (peaks of 40°C in Paris and London), warming is having its most dramatic effect in the northern part of the planisphere. In Scandinavia, far from the Arctic Circle, there have been several consecutive summers where peaks of 34°C have been recorded. It has consequences, sometimes resulting in melting ice and unprecedented flowering of native flora. “Using this opportunity to pursue the most extreme of his passions: planting grapes, journalist Gérard Muteau explains[2]. Denmark has been a pioneer in this field due to the milder climate, especially on the Jutland peninsula. In a harsher climate, the Lerkekasa estate in Gvarv, in the heart of Telemark, Norway, can claim to be the northernmost vineyard in the world. » This is how what was once considered impossible and illusory, that of growing grapes north of the 50th parallel, became a reality. Now a hundred hectares of vineyards have been successfully planted in Sweden, to the extent that the country is officially recognized as a wine producer by the European Union.

Welsh Chardonnay excellence

If they congratulate themselves on their adaptability and the new opportunities presented by climate change, locals are not happy. They know that rain, hail and other episodes of meteorological instability can also threaten them. Their argument is clear: they prefer more resistant grape varieties created in the laboratory and obtained from crosses, especially solaris. “Piwi grape (resistant to fungi), born in 1975 in the laboratories of the Institute of Agronomy in Freiburg, Germany, Muteau explains in an article for echoes. It gives an early, dry white wine, with some herbal and fruity notes, perfectly suited for local gastronomic specialties based on seafood. And it can withstand winter temperatures of minus 25°C, like Rondo, one of the rare red grape varieties. to Scandinavian winters”. Looking like a true adventure, Scandinavian wine represents everything the future holds for us: a mix of broken habits, resilience and adaptability. As for wine nobility, it will soon be necessary to turn to Great Britain to find it. It is now home to pinot noir, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay with the ‘franglais’ grapes growing. According to Professor Stephen Dorling of the University of East Anglia[3], the wine industry along the Channel would develop rapidly: + 400% growth between 2004 and 2021 due to the local climate, close to that known in Champagne or Burgundy. The paradoxical situation of England depriving France of the things it values ​​most: grape varieties, gastronomy… The frightening global warming in our regions causes a few hands to rub their shoulders elsewhere. According to a study published in the journal PLoS One In February 2020[4], it will be 4.3 million km2, it is still very cold in Canadian soil today, which will eventually be cultivated. A revolution in this country where food generally requires food imports from softer countries. “It can become a feeder regionrejoiced Krishna Bahadur, a professor at the University of Guelph, in his columns Canadian geography[5]. From this point of view, it is a positive moment for Canada.” It is known: the unhappiness of some is the happiness of others.

[1] https://semencemag.fr/sorgho-en- Augmentation.html

[2] https://www.lesechos.fr/weekend/gastronomie-vins/avec-le-rechauffement-climatique-le-vignoble-en-plein-essor-en-suede-1386430

[3] https://journal-du-palais.fr/au-sommaire/champagne-in-vino/dans-20-ans-le-vin-de-bourgogne-will-be-made-in-england

[4] https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0228305

[5] https://canadiangeographic.ca/articles/canada-could-gain-4-2-million-square-kilometres-of-agricultural-land-as-a-result-of-climate-change/

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