Changing climate affects farmland

In a warming world, Canada’s North may become our breadbasket of the future – but this new “farming frontier” also poses environmental threats from increased carbon emissions to degraded water quality, according to a first-ever study involving University of Guelph researchers.

The research team modelled prospects for growing major food crops in new farmland that may come available as climate change alters growing seasons worldwide.

The researchers found Earth’s agricultural landmass could increase by almost one-third, including vast new farming prospects in Canada’s North – but not without major environmental impacts such as soil carbon emissions, loss of biodiversity, and declines in water quality.

Areas that may become newly suitable for one or more crops — so-called climate-driven agricultural frontiers – cover an area equivalent to more than 30 percent of the landmass already being farmed worldwide.

In Canada, four crops – wheat, potatoes, corn, and soy – are cold-tolerant enough to grow in more northerly regions under climate change, according to the study.

Growing food in new areas may promote economic development, reducing poverty and food insecurity in Canada’s North.