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cover-RegionalStrategies-Okanagan-200Completed in the spring of 2012, the BC Agriculture Climate Change Adaptation Risk & Opportunity Assessment evaluates how changes to the climate may impact agricultural production for key commodities in various regions of BC.

The assessment generated five regional and commodity specific reports including a “Snapshot Report” focusing on wine grape and tree fruit production systems in the Okanagan region.

Building on the findings of the assessment, the Okanagan Region Adaptation Strategies plan was completed in the spring of 2016. A summary of the plan is also available. The plan identifies regionally specific collaborative strategies and actions that will enhance agriculture’s ability to adapt to projected changes.

$300,000 in Growing Forward funding is available for eligible collaborative projects identified in the plan. The Okanagan Adaptation Strategies plan is currently being implemented in partnership with a number of funders and local organizations. Implementation is being overseen by a local working group including:

Regional Projects

Okanagan – Decision Support Tool to Improve Local Tree Fruit Management

As average annual temperatures increase, the range and prevalence of insect pests and diseases are anticipated to shift, and new pests are expected to emerge. Well-informed management decisions will be increasingly important as the need for treatments – usually sprays (conventional or organic) – will increase, as will the costs of pest management and the likelihood of pests developing resistance.  As the climate changes, it will also no longer be effective for producers to rely on a calendar, or previous years’ timing, to make management decisions.

This project will take a successful pest management decision support tool developed by Washington State University and adapt this tool for the Okanagan context. The system has been in operation in Washington State for nearly a decade, and is highly valued by Washington producers. The tool will have a clear, simple interface that can be accessed on a computer, tablet or phone, and will be programmed for conventional and organic management recommendations, allowing producers to choose the treatments that are right for their operation.

Okanagan – Agriculture Drought Status Outreach

As warmer and drier summers increase the vulnerability of local water supplies to drought, the need for water purveyors to convey timely information about the state of the local water supply to their agricultural water users is increasingly vital. Producers rely on this information to prepare for, and respond to, local conditions and to enact water conservation measures. The Okanagan Basin’s water supply is managed by over 50 different water purveyors, making drought communication between provincial, municipal and local water authorities and their agricultural water users complex. Discrepancies between drought messaging from the province and water supplies at the local purveyor level can lead to confusion among agricultural water users about the actual state of the local water supply.

To address the challenges of drought status communications, The Okanagan Agriculture Drought Status Outreach Project will work with two pilot water purveyors in the Okanagan during the 2017 growing season to develop, test and assess messages and communications mechanisms between purveyors and agricultural water users. Following the completion of the pilot, a summary of the results, a set of communication guidelines, and sample outreach materials will be available to water purveyors across the region. This will help facilitate the adoption of effective and consistent methods for communicating with agricultural water users about water status throughout the Okanagan Basin.

Okanagan – Integrated Farm Water Management Planning Pilot Project

As Okanagan summers become warmer and drier — and there is less water available during critical irrigation windows — producers will be required to adapt their water management practices to suit changing conditions. Expectations for increasing frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events may also contribute to site-specific flooding, erosion and run-off management challenges. During the Okanagan Adaptation Workshops, producers identified increasing the availability of water management tools and information as a high priority, with a particular emphasis on the need for on-farm support. 

A pilot project has been initiated to evaluate an individualized water planning process and toolkit with participating Okanagan producers. The planning process and toolkit consists of a series of modules that examine current and future water challenges and opportunities and is intended to be applicable to many production types. The toolkit covers the full range of water management issues that producers may face (e.g., supply, irrigation, drainage, water quality, etc.), and also consider climate change impacts. This toolkit was originally developed and tested in the Cowichan region, and has been adapted for the Okanagan context. Producers who participate in the pilot will receive a customized farm water-use plan that identifies the key water issues on their farm, along with a series of strategies and resources to address these challenges and opportunities. 

If you are an Okanagan producer and would like more information about participating in this pilot please contact Lee Hesketh at (there is no charge to participate).
Okanagan – Vineyard Water Use Efficiency & Knowledge Transfer Project

As Okanagan summers become warmer and drier and precipitation patterns change, sustainable water management practices will support the agricultural sector’s resilience and competitiveness. This project is working with the Okanagan wine grape sector to develop and deliver a suite of sustainable water management tools and resources, while creating a shared understanding of current issues and opportunities around sustainable water use. 

The first phase of the project will compile existing research and knowledge — about vineyard soil water conservation and water use efficiency technologies and practices — into a State of Knowledge and Technology report. This report will inform the development of guidance materials including fact sheets (or similar resource) that highlights case studies from the Okanagan and beyond. The materials will be written in a non-technical style – designed to be practical and well-suited for field application.

The second phase of the project will develop a simple digital performance metric tool that will enable wine grape growers to benchmark, compare, and communicate their water use performance. The guidance materials and performance metric tool will be delivered to the industry through a webinar, and two field-day workshops hosted at local vineyards to showcase sustainable water use practices at their sites.

A summary report will be prepared at the end of the project. The report will include an assessment of lessons learned and an evaluation of the project, including possible steps for adapting the approach and/or materials for other commodity groups.  

Related Farm Innovator Projects (learn more)

Vented Orchard Covers to Protect Cherries Against Rain and Hail

A BC cherry orchard is testing vented orchard covers as a tool to protect tender fruit against rain and hail damage. The technology was pioneered in Europe, where it has been used to substantially reduce rain and hail related fruit damage, and increase water use efficiency in orchards. The project is evaluating the risks and the economic benefits of using vented orchard covers (in combination with wind machines) under current growing conditions in the Okanagan. Project findings will assist producers to assess the potential for this technology to reduce vulnerability to impacts associated with climate change.

The evaluation will compare fruit quality and water use efficiency for cherries grown inside and outside the vented covers, gather data over three years and provide a cost-benefit analysis that will be shared with other growers through publications, field days and presentations.

Economic, Social and Environmental Benefits of Riparian Rehabilitation as a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy

Natural watersheds are inherently resilient and adaptable in the face of altered conditions. Rehabilitation of degraded riparian corridors running through agricultural land is important because natural stream systems provide considerable buffering capacity to absorb the impacts of floods, heat waves, infestations, and other extreme events, thereby offering adaptive capacity to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

This project will assess a group riparian restoration process (supported through the Environmental Farm Plan program) that involves producers in the Alderson Creek drainage in the Fortune Creek Watershed near Armstrong, BC. The project will monitor adoption/implementation of best management practices as well as impacts to the watershed with respect to environmental conditions and resilience.

The rehabilitation project will be monitored to quantify social, economic and bio-physical variables relevant to the project as well as stakeholder attitudes, opinions, and knowledge exchange. The findings will be communicated through two workshops (toward the end of the project), producer bulletins (fact sheets), academic publications and media.

Climate Change Impact Risk Assessment Tool for Ponds used as Livestock Water Sources

Over the last century climate change has contributed to the loss of a large percentage of the world’s wetlands. In British Columbia’s semi-arid grassland ecosystems, there has been reduction in the size and number of cattle watering ponds. These ponds are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change that may include increasing air temperature and evaporation from ponds, along with decreased snowfall and earlier stream flow timing, which impact the available water supply in ponds.

This project will develop the framework for a demonstration tool for identifying pond types by groundwater/surface water interactions. The degree of sensitivity to climate change impacts is linked to a pond’s connectivity to groundwater. The demonstration tool will allow producers to identify the risk level associated with ponds that are important to grazing management. The project will also produce a series of maps, covering BC’s southern interior grasslands, which will use projected climate change data to identify areas at high risk of future pond loss. Knowledge of climate change impacts on ponds will empower producers to direct their resources to areas of high risk and explore options for proactive water management strategies.

The demonstration tool framework, maps and project reports will be shared for feedback via workshops, meetings and presentations for producers in both Kamloops and Kelowna. Access to the maps will be available as a layer file in Google Earth, in producer publications and on websites frequented by producers.

Expanding Cherry Production in British Columbia under Climate Change

With warmer temperatures and a longer growing season, the areas suitable for production of sweet cherries in the BC interior are expanding. Cherry producers can increase cherry acreage (in particular for late season cherries) by expanding production northward and by growing at higher elevations. However, water availability and soil pathogen control are key production issues. This project will study and demonstrate orchard management practices for optimizing both water use and soil biological resilience in new orchards.

The project will assess the impact and cost effectiveness of soil amendments and selected irrigation methods on water use efficiency, soil water holding capacity, crop production and soil health in two new orchards and in an established orchard.

Researchers will use greenhouse bioassays of cherry seedlings in ‘old’ and ‘new’ soils to determine whether native soil microbes will enhance or restrict cherry production in the new areas, and whether soil amendments can maintain a high buffering capacity against pathogens in new, non-fumigated soils.

The project results will be shared with BC cherry growers via presentations at annual meetings, grower-focused print publications, fact sheets, labeling of demonstration plots, and field tours.

Adapting to Low Light Growing Conditions using High Tunnel Structures

As global temperatures rise, snowfall and accumulation will likely be reduced and replaced with increased rainfall and accompanying cloud cover. The combination of these effects over the next 30 to 50 years could have very serious implications for agricultural opportunities in the mountainous regions of BC’s Interior. This project will study the viability of using high tunnel structures to improve food-crop production in locations previously seen as undesirable for commercial agriculture, and which may become even more challenging as a consequence of climate change.

This demonstration project will study the viability of winter salad green production in a low-cost, high-tunnel structure heated with a compost heat system in low light conditions, and without supplemental lighting. Data will be collected on crop quality, quantity, days to harvest and planting dates. Findings on which crops are viable in the low light structure will be shared in a final report, which will also offer recommendations on how to construct low-cost, high-tunnel structure that will withstand snow accumulation in mountain/high altitude conditions, encourage and maintain plant growth/crop productivity and maximize light exposure and minimize input costs such as artificial lighting and heating. An overall cost-effectiveness evaluation will be included.

Transfer of knowledge will primarily target small-scale farmers looking for innovative low-cost strategies for extending their growing season.

Climate Change Influence on Disease Control Patterns in the Okanagan Tree Fruit Industry

Climate change is causing an increase in annual temperatures (including an increase in winter minimum temperatures), shifting precipitation patterns and drier summer conditions. These effects give rise to changes in agriculture pest and disease populations including: increase in winter survival, introduction of new pests and diseases and changing ranges/distribution of pests and diseases. This can result in increased damage to crops, impacts to crop health, increased management costs and complexity, as well as decreasing effectiveness of pest models used for pest management.

This project will coordinate weather and disease data with a mapping software program allowing this relationship to be displayed geographically. This will visually convey information about disease distribution, its relative severity, its chemical resistance and its relationship to other factors such as microclimate, soils and pest management techniques. As information is gathered throughout the project, patterns will become clearer and more accurate. This project will establish a baseline for the distribution of three key disease areas: tree cankers, general fruit rot of stone fruits and soil diseases. These pathogen parameters will also be tied to soil analysis data and tree status data.

This information will be made available to the general grower population through their farm computers, through the growers cooperatives and through their independent field monitors. Broad recommendations will be summarized into reports and pest management recommendations. Project outcomes and recommendations will also be directly shared with grower groups, at meetings for extension personnel, and through industry magazines.

Optimization of Water Use in Vineyards in the Okanagan Using Precision Irrigation

Climate change will result in longer periods of drought and more frequent periods of very high temperatures. These factors, paired with potential limitations on water supply at certain times of the year, will require that producers in the southern Okanagan obtain more precise information about their soils (structure, water retention capacity, macro and micro element composition) in order to better manage irrigation and fertilization practices. This project evaluates techniques that allow for customized irrigation of different sections of a vineyard based on varying soil characteristics within the vineyard.

The project will begin by conducting a detailed analysis of soil properties and will map these differences across 5 vineyards. Irrigation equipment will then be installed for precise and timed delivery of water and nutrients specific to the mapped soil conditions. The project will monitor the total volume of water used for irrigation in the vineyards, and compare this to an evaluation of the quality and quantity of production in the same vineyards.

The project will demonstrate how to reduce the amount of water used in a vineyard, by enhancing the application and the delivery of irrigation water and by controlling the amount delivered according to the soil/plant requirements. This also results in preparation for potential drought conditions by having an irrigation system designed for efficiency and precision.

Project findings will be shared through a final report made widely available to the grape and wine sector, through a field day at the Enotecca vineyards to share and demonstrate the project, and through presentations and a workshop at The Viticulture and Ecology conference in 2016 and in 2017.