Utilizing Mother Nature to help vineyards adapt to climate change

An example of a NbS, Alyssum plants (white flowers – foreground) have been planted in these Niagara strawberry fields (background) to attract beneficial insects to the crops (Photo: Heather VanVolkenburg)

Have you ever noticed that nature has some ingenious ways of dealing with change? Natural systems can adjust in order to respond to environmental or climate changes; plants, for example,  can change the timing of bloom or grow slower during droughts. Nature can also be a source of inspiration for farm managers and is part of what we call Nature-based Solutions (NbS).

Nature-based Solutions include, but are not limited to, actions that address challenges that farmers are facing by protecting, sustainably managing, and restoring agroecosystems and their adjacent landscapes. These challenges can stem from environmental or climate changes that threaten the sustainability of production systems. By utilizing and implementing tools and strategies that we know work in natural systems, NbS can simultaneously provide support for agricultural production, its supporting ecosystem and, ultimately, human well-being.

High biodiversity is intimately connected to NbS and directly correlated to an ecosystem’s ability to cope with environmental uncertainty (e.g. climate change induced extreme events). In the natural world, it is likely that a community with a relatively high number of plant species will include a few species that are more tolerant of drought or flooding. This diversity can help ensure that the entire community is not lost when a drought or flooding event occurs. Similarly, in agriculture, planting different crop species or varieties can provide some insurance to the farmer if one crop fails. A farmer can also select plant species based on different characteristics, such as the type of invertebrates they attract or repel, or how they compete with other crop plants. Many of these beneficial characteristics evolved first in natural systems, making a strong case for the adoption of NbS in agriculture.

NbS are based on equity, the inclusion of all sectors of society (farmers, policy makers, consumers, etc.), and the restoration or protection of biological diversity is a top priority. Decisions can vary from local (farm level) to a large landscape (vineyards of the Niagara Region). In all cases, however, decisions should be transparent and integrate sustainable ideas and solutions for all. NbS are also a viable approach for meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ensuring that basic societal needs are met in a safe and sustainable environment.

Like many of the research projects in our lab, our OSCIII project aims to investigate a combination of NbS concepts applied to local vineyard agroecosystems. The next few blogs will outline a few of these potential solutions and how they are being applied in our research.

This blog section will be ongoing throughout the duration of the project with bi-weekly updates provided by Liette Vasseur, Heather VanVolkenburg, Kasia Zgurzynski, Habib Ben Kalifa, and Diana Tosato (see research team). We will be providing research activity updates as well as informative pieces that delve into agricultural concepts and important global issues as they relate to agricultural sustainability and climate change. Stay tuned for regular updates!

Categories: Organic Science Cluster 3 Blog