Tackling climate change on the field
Farmers across Germany and many other parts of northern Europe are reeling from the impacts of the past few months of hot, dry weather. Some have accepted that change is here to stay and are considering how to adapt.
Weathering the elements with water
Hans-Heinrich Grünhagen has an arable farm a 90-minute drive north of Berlin. He says he has noticed climate change in the extended growing period of his crops. While even a few years ago, he had to harvest his potatoes by early October, he says that has changed, because the frosts no longer arrive as early in the year.
A bag of spuds
Grünhagen expects to get at least this number of potatoes from each plant, but because they wither in temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit), keeping them healthy is not easy. The only option he has is to water them. Even so, this summer of extreme heat means he's looking at half his usual yield.
A whole lot of rye
He grows many different kinds of grain and says nothing about their harvest time has changed. Still, they sprout and grow earlier, making them more vulnerable to late frosts, which have not been eradicated by climate change. Where possible, he is now switching to crop varieties that can cope with more sun.
Bitten by the frost
Vintners are facing similar problems. In western Germany, warmer daytime temperatures in North Rhine-Westphalia's (NRW) wine-growing region coax vines into producing buds earlier than they used to. As with other plants, that makes them vulnerable on nights when the temperature falls below zero degrees Celsius. As they're particularly sensitive, once they've been bitten, they tend to die.
Bringing the grapes in
Long summers of extreme heat also make the grapes ripen much earlier, meaning they have to be harvested earlier. The higher temperatures affect their taste. But keeping them cool enough during the wine-making process requires a huge technological effort. When possible, vintners try to pick the grapes in the middle of the night or in the early morning before they've absorbed the warmth of the day.
A potential silver lining?
Some in the NRW wine-making community see the changing weather patterns as an opportunity to experiment with growing grape sorts that previously couldn't have weathered the German climate. But they don't want to lose their long-standing reputation for producing the white wines for which the region has become globally well-known.
Caring for the ground so it can take care of us
There are calls from within Germany's farming community to rethink the country's entire food production system and to put more emphasis on improving the quality of the ground on which the nation relies. Measures such as planting more trees and bushes to stop drying winds, and preventing excessive soil compaction through the use of heavy machines could help.
How to be healthy
Healthy soil, says Felix zu Löwenstein, Chairman of the German Federation of the Organic Food Industry, has much to do with how much humus and how much life exists within it. The higher the content, the greater the soil's ability to absorb water, making it more resilient both in times of drought and extreme rainfall.