What we’ll grow and eat may change with a warming climate

Fresh vegetables from Loon Organics
Fresh vegetables available from Loon Organics at the Mill City Farmers Market in Minneapolis.
Jennifer Simonson | MPR News 2015

For the last couple of years, more of the state, including the Twin Cities, has moved into a more temperate zone.

What does it mean for our local agriculture? Beth Dooley is back to talk about why this is providing us “lessons in adaptivity and resilience.”

More of Minnesota is now in what’s known as [hardiness] zone 5A. What does a change like that mean?

It means that we have a longer growing season in many ways. I mean, yes, the climate’s in flux, but it also means that planting season will start earlier and last longer.

Are we seeing things that will have to be adapted because we're going to lose them?

Many of our apples are really stressed out because they go dormant in the wintertime and they don’t have the long, cold periods of time that we have had in past winters.

What farmers are doing is looking at ways to hybridize or to help those trees adapt to the changing climate. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to lose things. We will lose things. But if we respond to that loss in a smart way, we’ll be able to see other things taking their place.

How is it affecting potatoes?

Potatoes we think of as a cold hardy crop. I mean, we’re the land of potatoes. But potatoes originated in South America. And those potatoes come from wet, hot climates originally. And they adapted to live in cold hardy areas.

So, in order for them to withstand the changes because of climate change — our conditions have become wetter and they become hotter — that stresses those potatoes out.

So, researchers are beginning to cross those cold hardy potatoes back with potatoes from South America to create potatoes that can withstand the flooding and the heat.

Any unexpected crops that we’ll see?

Our growers are growing Shishito peppers, which are those wonderful Japanese skinny, green peppers. They’re kind of pale.

We’re going to see more Padrón peppers, which are like Shishito peppers, but a little hotter. Those come from Arizona and the Sonoran Desert Southwest and they're going to start growing here pretty well.

What do you take from all of this. This change is already happening, right?

It is. We will lose some things or things will change. But we also need to look to some of our plants to realize how things adapt and be smart about cultivating and beginning to hybridize and understanding those plants so that they become more resilient and we become more resilient as well.

When do you think we’ll start seeing some of this at the farmers market?

Pretty soon. I know we’re going to start seeing some of those University of Minnesota grapes pretty soon. I know, for sure, we’ll start seeing more peaches. We will see some kiwi soon. Not the great big kiwi, but these tiny, vining kiwi — they’re delicious. You don’t have to peel them.

So, we’ll see more of these kinds of crops coming in and they’ll begin in the farmers market because they’re being grown not so much for, you know, distribution outside of those farming areas. And they’re also being grown on smaller farms.

So, we’ll see them beginning that way and then eventually in our supermarkets as well.

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