Date of release: Friday, February 22, 2013

Professor Chris AtkinsonAgriculture in the “Garden of England” may be dramatically different in the decades to come but, with the right planning, farmers will be able to adapt to the challenges of climate change. That’s the message from Professor Chris Atkinson of the University of Greenwich, who will be speaking at a special public event to mark Climate Week on Wednesday 6 March.

“If the worst happens, fields and orchards may flood in the winter and even the summer, when we may also see extended periods of drought,” Chris says. “These extreme events may change the landscape and our ability to grow the traditional crops that Kent is famous for.”

Chris, the new Professor of Sustainable Agriculture & Climate Change at the university’s Natural Resources Institute (NRI), will look to the ways in which farmers may adapt to temperatures up to four degrees warmer than now, often reaching 40 degrees Celsius. “This will likely attract, from warmer climates, new pest and disease problems for farmers,” he says.  

Adaptation is all about farmers being helped to identify alternative foodstuffs that suit the new climate. “For example, apricots, vineyards and melons may replace the apple orchards which have been such a feature of the Kentish landscape,” says Chris. “With optimism and action we can ensure the new Garden of England is just a good as the old despite climate change.”

Chris joined NRI, which offers specialist expertise and facilities in agricultural research in the UK and the developing world, in September 2012, following a distinguished career at East Malling Research where he was a Senior Programme Leader and Deputy Chief Executive. He has recently appeared on the BBC1 Sunday Politics show and BBC Radio Kent discussing the governments’ need to invest in strategic research in order to improve UK food production.

During his talk, Chris will outline the links between climate and agriculture and explain how the predicted changes in climate will influence European agriculture, and how this will in turn affect Kent.

Chris says: “The region must be able to rise to the opportunity and ensure that its natural resources such as water, are used sustainably. Kent is going to experience climate change rapidly, and how it adapts will be vital in delivering healthy diets, encouraging UK food security and regional economic stability.”

Professor Chris Atkinson’s talk, ‘Climate in the ‘Garden of England’: optimism and opportunity for agricultural change in Kent’, will take place at 12 noon on Wednesday 6 March, in Room 106, Jellicoe Building, University of Greenwich at Medway Central Avenue, Chatham Maritime, Kent ME4 4TB.  Everyone is welcome to attend this free event. Please email Caroline Troy on c.troy@greenwich.ac.uk to register your interest.

Story by Public Relations