What lies ahead for our sugarcane farmers and workers under climate change?

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What lies ahead for our sugarcane farmers and workers under climate change?

Climate change threatens our food supply and the impacts will be worse if we fail to understand and manage its effects. It is just a matter of ensuring that we use the best of science to maximize the benefits of available information in order to properly manage farms and their environment.

A recently published article in the Climate, Disaster and Development Journal (CDD Journal) demonstrates how a crop model can be used to assess the present and mid-century impacts of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and climate change on sugarcane growth and productivity in Negros Occidental province, Philippines. As discussed in the article, the crop responses of sugar-growing rainfed farms in Negros Occidental to ENSO events and mid-century climate were simulated using the AquaCrop model. The results show that cane yield would increase from 5% to 30% by 2050 due to wetter summers. Irrigation access can increase yield by 17%, or from 60 t/ha to 71 t/ha, by 2050. In addition, shifting the planting dates from May to March can increase yield by 13%.

Crop models are cost-effective tools that can help policy makers and food planners advise farmers on how to adapt to the changing weather and rising CO2 emissions. Developing models to show the impacts of climate change on food-producing regions in the Philippines can also help researchers to better understand the range of threats and the corresponding adaptation options available to farmers. Crop models, coupled with downscaled climate models can pave the way in delivering science-based, cost-efficient, and effective solutions that are particularly important to farming communities with low adaptive capacity, high vulnerability to dry spells, and poor forecasting and planning systems.

What is also useful is that the study demonstrated the utility of crop models and upscaling methods in guiding future climate change assessments at larger scales. The methods used in modeling large areas need to give robust, reproducible, and transparent estimates before they are used with confidence by food authorities. The study that was featured in the article developed an approach for modeling sugarcane production at a provincial scale using less rigorous data sources while still satisfying the minimum data requirements for calibrating and validating the model. According to the author, Mr. Edgardo Tongson, the crop models would complement existing survey methods and facilitate the decision making of the provincial agricultural office and the Philippine Sugar Regulatory Administration as they prepare their development plans for the sector.

As changes in climatic conditions have and will continue to directly or indirectly affect sugarcane production, we have to better understand how climate change and ENSO events will impact production targets and future irrigation requirements. This way, we can think of optimal irrigation strategies to address the foreseen impacts of climate change. The stakes are huge since the Philippines is a global player in sugar cane production with Negros province, a.k.a. “sugarlandia”, accounting for 80% of national production.

For more information about this article, visit the CDD Journal page on “Simulating impacts of ENSO and Climate Change on Sugar Cane Production in Negros Occidental Province, Philippines”.

Photos courtesy of Greg Yan of the World Wide Fund for Nature – Philippines.

Other research articles on climate, disasters and development are available in the CDD Journal website. The CDD Journal is an open-access platform for peer-reviewed papers on all aspects and intersections of climate, disasters, and development, and their interaction.

The CDD Journal is open to submissions focused on the areas of climate science, vulnerability and risks, climate change adaptation, disaster management, resilience, and climate policy and development. Please refer to the call for submission flyer, guide on getting published in the CDD Journal, and the manuscript submission guidelines for more information.

The CDD Journal is also looking to expanding our pool of experts. Please refer to our call for reviewers.