[NAFEX] Evan's queston

fuwa fuwa usagi fuwafuwausagi at muchomail.com
Tue Jan 25 14:16:04 EST 2011

It was written:

I am very interested in hearing folks' strategies for adding resilience to their orchards or adapting to possible future climate scenarios. Planting out of zone expecting a change? Keeping drought tolerant (or maybe wet tolerant) varieties in particular microclimates just in case normal rainfall patterns shift (are shifting)? Building swales for water 
retention? What are you doing? These sorts of things could make a fertile topic to explore...

But I have no interest in hearing yet another climate change debate, 
particularly on this list.

My reply:

It has been some time since I gave this serious consideration (maybe 20 years).  Part of my academic training was in cultural anthropology and a side interest was geology so I was particularity interested in how humans adapted to climate change.  Especially as it related to food.

In my area I normally pretend I am in zone 4b rather than 5a.  This is in large part because those zones are based on averages and a series of colder than average year can wipe out a planting in fairly short order. And that is simply considering weather fluctuations not climatic change itself.   And I am betting on marginally cooler periods over my lifetime and have planted accordingly.  That was a choice I made based on the tea leaves as I read them decades ago and I hold to it.  

The issue you really need to overcome is man's ego and self import.  We have productive growing lives of maybe 70 years max...in that time you can see a weather pattern shift that is significant of about 1/2 of a zone, and drought and wetness patterns that can have significant effects via soil.  Logically that should be your target.  We do know that extended fluctuation within the norm does occur.   

Think of what happened to the Baldwin orchards of the East years ago, that is what you are realistically prepping for: anomalous conditions or a continuum of low or high temperatures in the band of what is considered average or normal.  So your first bet to place is if you betting  on cooler and wetter or warmer and dryer or some other combination.  Then you nudge the range of climatic zone accordingly.  

You can do a lot to create microclimates for home growers.  And even small growers for niche markets can do a great deal with berms and mulches to create micro climates.  However at some point relocation is probably the ultimate solution or reciprocal arrangement with other growers in the extended local.  Which is to say it is a lot easier for me to establish a cooperative arrangement with a mid state grower who can consistently produce peaches for my more northern farmers market and I in turn can grow those quality cool weather apples that need cold nights and warm days to flavor properly.

Others can have different opinions, but the reality is man is egocentric and accords significance to things in his time frame.   As I said, I planted according to the bet I placed, colder and wetter, but that is relative to my lifetime.  I really screwed up on the wetter part by the way, I did not consider the impact that suburbanization would have on the water table.  My bet should have been colder and drier. So for over a decade I have been altering my soil structure to hold more water.  The solution really is irrigation but that is not practical for my circumstances.   If I had my druthers, in my area I would go with a water retention pond and gravity fed irrigation.  



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