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Climate change will cause pests to spread

One of the first consequences of climate change is that northern Europe will enjoy a rise in temperatures that will increase crop production. Meanwhile, a tropicalized south will be forced to reinvent its agriculture to survive the frequent droughts and the spread of pests, opting for more adaptable crops that will end up transforming the rural landscape. Another inconvenience will also likely be the loss of markets, as northern Europe may begin to grow products typically cultivated in the south.

This was explained by the manager of Asaja-Baleares, Joan Simonet, who also says that the countries with a more arid climate that have also found their own profitable crops could serve as an example. The Mediterranean strip will be especially sensitive to global warming and this will result in a more complicated scenario for traditional crops, such as cereals, vineyards or olive trees.

While waiting for a thorough study in which the General Directorate of Agriculture and Livestock is already working, the work done so far has focused on the search for varieties that are more resistant to the main agricultural pest: the Xylella fastidiosa. This should serve as preparation for the changes to come, with a greater proliferation of insects and bacteria.

The strategic environmental study of the Government of the Balearic Islands against climate change does not define a clear line of action in agricultural management beyond four basic guidelines, like avoiding the planting of species that consume high amounts of water, like rice, or encouraging the implementation of more efficient irrigation systems.

Joan Simonet said that new crops have to be more resistant, more productive and more marketable. Without these three characteristics, there is no real possibility of change: science can help find a more resilient plant physiology, but that will be of little use if there is no market. "We have to look in places with a drier climate, such as North Africa or Israel, where they have a very productive agriculture with potatoes for example." The key, he says, is to invest in technology, especially more efficient irrigation systems.

However, the Balearic agrarian sector already has to deal with some handicaps, says Simonet; lands that are not excessively fertile, very limited access to water, fields that are gradually abandoned due to a lack of profitability... In this context, there is a more limited capacity to react. "Ours is a sector that is hardly capitalized and which finds it harder to react."

Of all the crops in the Islands, cereals (with close to 50,000 hectares) will be the most affected by the rising temperatures, and the livestock sector will later be affected by this. "Rainfed crops will generally be hit the most, as they will be at the expense of a more irregular water regime. Other crops that rely on human irrigation will be saved, but there is no infrastructure to irrigate cereals."

The rising temperatures will also likely lead to a proliferation of pests. "Some will appear that did not exist before, and there will be an increase of those that were already present. The only possible solution is to introduce more controls. Medrano concludes that even if they change the crops, "the problem will be trying to protect a sector that already has many threats."

The general director of Agriculture and Livestock, Mateu Ginard, says that "there are few alternatives when it comes to choosing crops in the Balearic Islands." It is true that the warmer temperatures could allow us at first to grow tropical crops, "but those have greater water needs that we would be unable to meet."


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