Climate change is putting Romagna agriculture to the test, already grappling with complex global challenges such as technological innovation and the collapse of producers’ wages. Drought, increased temperatures and extreme events are causing a reduction in the quantity and quality of production, damage to crops, an increase in the demand for irrigation water, and an ever-increasing number of insects and pathogens to fight.
It was discussed on Monday 18 September at the Cooperativa Agricola Braccianti in Campiano, where the coordination of Legacoop Romagna agricultural businesses met the professional meteorologist Pierluigi Randi, the economist Roberto Fanfani and the Unibo fruit tree ecophysiology teacher Brunella Morandi.
“We ask for strong choices on the part of politicians, who must have the courage to marginalize those who persist in having denialist positions and at the same time defend the income of farmers. – said the president of Legacoop Romagna, Paolo Lucchi -. If we want that Romagna’s agriculture remains a point of excellence at an international level, we need an alliance with science and universities, with which to outline our and the country’s strategies and resources for innovative and healthy businesses”.
The managers of the agri-food sector Federico Morgagni and Stefano Patrizi spoke. Among others, Giampietro Sabbatani (Cab Massari), Giovanni Giambi (Agrisfera), Lino Bacchilega (Cab Terra), Claudio Mazzotti (Cab Campiano), Giovanni Monti (Legacoop ER), Alvaro Crociani (Rinova), Maurizio Lanzoni (Cab Bagnacavallo) and Faenza), Mauro Parisi (Cab Fusignano).
The interventions of the experts
The data presented by Fanfani outline a regional agricultural sector in which agricultural companies are increasingly larger and more technological, and overall employment is decreasing, starting from family employment: a problem for labor cooperation. There are around 170 thousand people working in agriculture in Emilia-Romagna, 15% less than ten years earlier. In the space of 40 years, 250 thousand hectares of cultivated fields have been lost in Emilia-Romagna, about a fifth of the total. However, the average size of the companies has grown, which today is close to 20 hectares. Half of the farms exceed 50 hectares on average, while the smaller ones are decreasing. For the first time since the post-war period, land rented (51%) or used for free (3%) exceeds that owned (46%).
“It is true that the climate has always changed – explained Randi -, but never as quickly as in the last 40 years. It is also difficult for agriculture to adapt. The data is impressive. The average temperature of the planet continues to grow and the feared threshold of the 2 °C average increase is just around the corner. It is above all the summers that are hotter, with tropical nights (minimum temperature above 20 °C) and heat waves. Annual rainfall is decreasing, but from 1991 to 2020 the tendency is to have higher daily rainfall maximums. In Romagna rainfall is decreasing, with considerable variability: the last 3 years have been among the driest since 1935, while the frequency of extreme events, such as floods, has increased tornadoes, hailstorms or frosts this year. Plants suffer greatly from the increase in temperatures, said Professor Morandi: early flowering, late frosts and failure to satisfy the need for cold are already a very serious problem. The life cycle of insects and pathogens is changing and current defense protocols are no longer sufficient, the number of pollinating insects is reducing. Research is developing varieties of cereals and vegetables that are more resistant to drought, but there are still no satisfactory solutions for fruit plants and perennial crops. Mitigation and adaptation strategies aim to preserve the soil’s ability to retain water, to anticipate the sowing cycle where possible, to apply conservative agriculture techniques, mulches and multifunctional plant covers, for example to reduce radiation solar, and to optimize irrigation. Technology can help: sensors applied to the plant provide important data, remote sensing with drones and satellites. But costs are still high and reliability needs to be improved.”