Hutton, Mallory, Calderwood interviewed for Press Herald article on climate change effects on food systems
University of Maine experts Mark Hutton, Ellen Mallory and Lily Calderwood were interviewed for the Portland Press Herald article “As Maine’s climate warms, what’s on the menu likely will change.” Dramatic fluctuations in temperatures and rainfall, increasingly acidic oceans, new plant and shellfish diseases and insect pests may challenge what farmers can grow in Maine and what fishermen harvest from the seas, the article states. In 50 years, places like California and Latin America will be affected by drought and fire, so Maine will have less access to food typically grown there. The state is already adopting new methods to grow foods like baby ginger, sweet potatoes and artichokes traditionally found in California and Texas. However, this is due more to the success of those unconventional crops than climate change, according to Hutton, associate professor of vegetable crops, UMaine Cooperative Extension vegetable specialist and associate director of the Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station. Climate “is probably not going to change what we grow. It may change when we grow it, or particularly when we can harvest it,” Hutton said. “Maybe we’ll be like Pennsylvania, where we have field tomatoes maturing in July rather than the end of August.” He predicts vegetable crops won’t disappear from Maine by 2069, but changes in temperature, rainfall patterns, and new diseases and insect pests could make them more expensive to grow. Growing potatoes in the future may require irrigation or other costly special treatments, according to Mallory, associate professor of sustainable agriculture and associate Extension professor. “The thing I feel like is (a challenge) is the increase in variability of the weather. We’ve already seen a dramatic increase in heavy precipitation,” she said. “It’s hard to predict the specific impacts, but we know that just makes the farmers’ job harder.” The wild blueberry growing season has been extended by about four weeks, and fewer late spring frosts mean they can grow more reliably farther north, according to Calderwood, wild blueberry specialist and assistant professor of horticulture. But the crop may also have to combat new pests and require irrigation systems to fight drought. Biddeford Journal Tribune carried the Press Herald article.