The taste of cheese, the nature of wine or the face of the forest: climate change is taking its toll on agriculture. A tour of the initiatives and solutions gleaned from the aisles of the 2023 Agricultural Show.
“From Grass to Cheese”
The production of Salers, Cantal and other typical French PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) cheeses will have to be “rethought”, predicts Christophe Chassard, researcher at Inrae (National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs).
Because if the grass no longer grows, farmers have no choice but to demand a derogation from the strict specifications of their denomination.
This winter in the Massif Central, the cows producing Furme d’Amber thus consumed up to 20% of the feed outside the geographical area of the PDO. If this happens every year, the Fourme d’Ambert will no longer be a Fourme d’Ambert under the current specifications.
As such, Inrae is looking for “solutions (…) from blade of grass to cheese” and even upstream to tailor specifications while ensuring that “the heart of the product as well as its quality” is preserved.
Researchers are working on several fronts, from microbial mixtures to preserve the taste and texture of cheeses to genetic selection to find breeds of cows that are less sensitive to heat.
Seeds of the future
“To the start, get ready, harvest!”. On the part of the National Forestry Administration (ONF), children are armed with wooden tongs to catch acorns scattered in front of them at certain times.
The manager of 11 million hectares of state forest wanted this year’s exhibition to draw the attention of the youngest to the collection of seeds needed for reforestation in forests hard hit by diseases caused by climate change: since 2018, this reduction has touched 300,000 hectares, or “30 times larger than the area of Paris.
Another workshop invites children to associate three seeds with a growing tree: a sequoia, an oak, or an Atlas cedar. Species from different regions of France or the world that are currently being tested in the forest on small plots, “islands of the future”, to see if they can adapt to tomorrow’s climate.
The taste of cheese, the nature of wine, or the face of the forest: climate change hits agriculture (AFP/Archive – JEFF PACHUD)
The French Institute of Vine and Wine (IFV) has decided to introduce old or hybrid grape varieties that will be more resilient to the environmental shocks that the wine world will be exposed to.
These “future” grape varieties will play a “match against climate change,” Taran Limousin, an IFV engineer, explains to visitors.
Several varieties already have advantages, he says, citing Assyrtiko, an ancient Greek grape variety that is drought-resistant, or young red Cyrano, an American-European hybrid that is immune to mildew and powdery mildew, two grape pests.
In 2021, heavy rains, frosts and hail destroyed part of the French and European vineyards. Last summer, due to drought and scorching heat, several Bordeaux AOCs (Controlled Designations of Origin) began to irrigate their plots in retreat.
Five Star Round Table
To talk about “agriculture and climate”, the AgroParisTech school decided to host researchers from the IPCC or agriclimatologist Serge Zach.
According to the scientist, despite the climate cataclysms, agriculture has a “many” solutions to continue to feed humanity.
For example, solar panels to “shade the soil” and keep it moist, or digital “warning” devices that let farmers anticipate extreme weather events, he says.
Another solution would be to “blend varieties”, for example, several varieties of soft wheat with different characteristics in the same area to ensure a minimum yield.
Because “the summer of 2022 was not a UFO, but a palpable anticipation of what lies ahead,” warns Nathalie de Noble, director of research for the Atomic Energy Commission.