The great Gary Paul Nabhan wrote an important piece in the Sunday edition of the NY Times about climate change, ag and an increasingly vital area: seeds. From the column (which I strongly encourage you to read!):
We also need to address the looming seed crisis. Because of recent episodes of drought, fire and floods, we are facing the largest shortfall in the availability of native grass, forage legume, tree and shrub seeds in American history. Yet current budget-cutting proposals threaten to significantly reduce the number of federal plant material centers, which promote conservation best practices.
If our rangelands, forests and farms are to recover from the devastating heat, drought and wildfires of the last three years, they need to be seeded with appropriate native forage and ground-cover species to heal from the wounds of climatic catastrophes. To that end, the farm bill should direct more money to the underfinanced seed collection and distribution programs.
Finally, the National Plant Germplasm System, the Department of Agriculture’s national reserve of crop seeds, should be charged with evaluating hundreds of thousands of seed collections for drought and heat tolerance, as well as other climatic adaptations — and given the financing to do so. Thousands of heirloom vegetables and heritage grains already in federal and state collections could be rapidly screened and then used by farmers for a fraction of what it costs a biotech firm to develop, patent and market a single “climate-friendly” crop. (emphasis added by me)
The issue of climate change and seed adaptation is a current reality for all farmers, not just ones who live in hot climates. Even here in New England, we're noticing that some stand-by varieties aren't growing as well; here on the farm, for example, we haven't been so thrilled this year with Marketmore slicing cukes. It's time to invest in public seeds and breeding programs that not only preserve our ag heritage and biodiversity, but also usher in a resilient, sustainable and adaptable growing future.