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LI farmers discuss effects of global warming

Long Island farmers say they need the state

Long Island farmers say they need the state to approve new, less harmful pesticides. Above, a farm on the North Fork (Credit: Randee Daddona)

The impacts of global warming will be a mixed blessing for Long Island farmers, who already are seeing signs of a longer growing season and hints that midsummer irrigation will become more important as weather patterns continue to change.

That prediction was made Thursday at the Long Island Agricultural Forum by David W. Wolfe, who co-chairs the Cornell University Climate Change Program Work Team and is an expert in crop and soil ecology.

Wolfe noted that zone change is already taking place, with the traditional growing zones for plants and vegetables moving north, reflecting a longer growing season. But, he cautioned, along with the warmer weather, farmers also are starting to see new invasive species of weeds and other pests take hold.

But the impact could be different for every crop. “Red wine grapes will benefit,” Wolfe said.

Many of Long Island’s farmers, especially on the North Fork, do not use irrigation systems because of their cost. But Wolfe said farmers likely will rely increasingly on such systems if extended spells of hot, dry weather threaten harvests.

The Agricultural Forum, which ended Friday, is an annual conference held on the eastern campus of Suffolk County Community College. It brings farmers together with businesses that serve the industry — from bankers and insurance specialists to suppliers of seed and farm equipment, many of whom set up displays in the college cafeteria.

Farmers also could get credits for pesticide recertification, and information on conservation programs and estate planning from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This was the 32nd annual forum, which is sponsored by the Long Island Farm Bureau.

This year’s forum also had special workshops on sustainable agriculture, greenhouse and nursery management, potato and vegetable production, and environmental landscaping and gardening.

Pictured above: A farm field in Aquebogue is prepared for an early season because of unseasonably warm weather. (Mar. 28, 2012)

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