Carbon Footprints Maybe growers are heroes.
Our annual Buyer's Guide issue includes 24 pages of contact and descriptive information on leading research centers, organizations, and businesses that are essential to the tree fruit and grape growing industries. But the issue's also a full-sized Good Fruit Grower with the comprehensive reporting that is our magazine's trademark. This August issue focuses on sustainable agriculture in a century that will struggle with steadily increasing global warming: not an easy subject to cover well or authoritatively, given the many unknowns.
No matter what your political leanings, all of the talk about carbon emissions and their effect on global climate change is stimulating conversation. Who would have guessed, even two years ago, that the grower coffeeshop buzz today would be about carbon units and oxygen replenishment—and not being dismissed as liberal environmentalist issues, but as real concerns to real growers? Could it be that by the very nature of our oxygen-producing industries, growers are inevitably some of the environmentalist heroes on the global stage? Or do transportation and CA storage impacts on carbon emissions negate the positives of growing trees and ground covers? Either way, the concept of sustainable agriculture finally has resonance with growers.
In this issue, Good Fruit Grower looks at some exciting research being done in New Zealand, Germany, and the United States to evaluate "food miles," a current method of measuring the carbon footprint of food from production to market. It's complex research, and scientists don't have a clear picture of how commercial agriculture affects the global warming threat. Some of the data suggest that agriculture, particularly large, efficient operations, may have an overall positive impact on the environment.
Adding to the difficulty of understanding climate change research, scientists must also consider variables such as how warmer temperatures will affect pest populations and diseases in growing areas, as well as how higher temperatures will change where we grow our crops and what crops we grow. Some changes will benefit areas that were formerly too cold to grow some grape and tree fruit crops, but many of our best growing regions will face water shortages as well as more sunburn damage.
It's a giant puzzle with potentially giant consequences if scientists can't reach some solutions—or worse, if people won't act on them.
In this issue, you can also read about sustainable practices for your operation. Integrated pest management, which most growers would agree is superior to, and more sustainable than, traditional chemical use, is expensive and requires far more oversight. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture is doing something about that with its Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Begun in 1997, the voluntary program may help orchardists transition to IPM.
Even a couple of years ago, this August issue of Good Fruit Grower may not have been accepted by a majority of our readers as being relevant to fruit growing. Until recently, global warming was too easy for all of us to dismiss as theory. This subject may not be a favorite even now, but I'm guessing that tomorrow morning it will be brought up over coffee.