Climate change will bring a number of challenges for Ontario’s farmers stemming from increased spring runoff, increased summer temperatures, variable and extreme weather patterns as well as increased incidence and severity of drought and heat waves (1, 2). The increase in drought and heat waves will significantly decrease crop yields across the prairie provinces and result in lowered survivability, milk production and increased weight gain in livestock (2, 3). Abnormally rapid spring runoff can cause flooding, which could lead to infrastructure damage, soil nutrient loss, contamination of groundwater tables, increased erosion, and decreased water quality (1). The increased variability in weather may lead to increased winter bud kill and frost during the growing season which negatively impacts crop production (1). The increase in temperature will also increase inland evaporation and water stress as well as increase the number of pests, invasive species and disease, all of which are factors that will negatively impact crop production (1).
Along with negative impacts there are also some potential benefits to Canada’s agricultural sector which come with the increase in temperature (3). These include the expansion of growing seasons due to the shorter and milder winters, providing new opportunities for agriculture in certain regions as local climates are changed, lower livestock feed requirements and increased survival rates (3). However, along with the aforementioned negative impacts of climate change, these benefits are somewhat of a moot point since the negative impacts, particularly the evaporation and water stress, are projected to overshadow the potential benefits (1, 3).