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Saturday, May 08, 2004
By Eddie Cassidy
THE humble spud could face extinction in a sun-sizzling Ireland within two generations.
Experts predict some traditional Irish crops will not survive startling climate changes, in a revised book, Climate, Weather and Irish Agriculture.
Co-edited by Tom Keane, formerly of Met Éireann, and Jim Collins of the Department of Crop Science, Horticulture and Forestry at UCD, the evidence of change is provided by leading meteorologists, agricultural scientists, pathologists and hydrologists in Ireland.
By the mid-21st century, when Ireland remembers the 200th anniversary of the Great Famine, potatoes will possibly only grow in wet western areas. The drought-threatened east and midland areas will experience, by the year 2050, Mediterranean-type temperatures due to a predicted 25% reduction in rainfall, they predict.
The book believes Ireland will have two distinct climate areas dry in the east and wet in the west.
The experts also expect significant grassland production changes could see a current reversal of trends with the entire dairy and livestock industries on the western side of the country.
While potatoes may suffer, the soya bean currently a product of southern Europe could be a common future sight in the east of Ireland.
With support from UCD research teams, the experts insist the changes in farming will not be entirely catastrophic. The country, split in two, will see dairy farming primarily in the west with crops and cereal farming prominent in the east.
The landscape on the eastern seaboard could, the experts suggest, resemble rice-growing paddy fields due to the need for irrigation.
The co-editors indicated that new research, technological advances and changed priorities in Irish farming prompted a revised new edition of the book, first published 18 years ago, in which they voice an ever-increasing concern for environmental impacts associated with agricultural production.
Climate, Weather and Irish Agriculture is published by AGMET and available from AGMET c/o Faculty of Agriculture, UCD, Belfield, Dublin 4 or AGMET c/o Met Éireann, Glasnevin, Dublin 9 for €20.
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