Global warming in the world is still one of the main challenges today. It influenced our country either: in Ukraine for several years there has been a change in climatic conditions—dry winters and a reduction in transition periods—spring and autumn. This is already leading to a shortage of water in the country.
But not everything is so simple. On the one hand, it seems that this does not lead to anything good, on the other hand, it brings unlimited opportunities for development, due to the cultivation of niche crops and the development of new technologies. has been figuring out what's what.
Climate change risks for Ukraine
The New York Times has created an interactive map of the world that illustrates the main risks from climate change for each country. The organization for the environment protection Ekodiya points out the lack of water as the biggest challenge for Ukraine. And although now it may not always be noticeable, but at this rate, by 2040 we will face the consequences.
As if in opposition to this, there are other risks for Ukraine—floods, sea level rise, and heat waves, that is, the so-called periods of abnormally high temperatures. And almost 70% of the population, economy in general, and agriculture can feel the influence of at least one of these factors.
Opportunities from climate change in Ukraine: the flourishing of niche and exotic crops
In 2020, Ukrainian agrarians faced an unprecedented challenge—due to the gradual climate change, the winter was abnormally warm and snowless, and the spring was rather dry. The southern regions of the country especially suffered from this. But the farmers were not taken aback and began to grow crops atypical for Ukraine, for example, spices (saffron, thyme, marjoram) and legumes (chickpeas, sorghum, false flax), Olga Trofimtseva, Director for Development of Epicenter-Agro, told .
"In the southern, eastern, and central regions, farmers are beginning to look at new crops that do not require irrigation and can be grown in their climatic zone. For example, growing amaranth, exparcet, flax, hemp, some vegetables (sweet potatoes), various berries, fruits and others are gaining more and more popularity."
Director for Development of Epicenter-Agro
Moreover, due to global warming in the world, part of Ukraine has already found itself at the lower threshold of the subtropical climate. And now what has been traditionally grown on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea (for example, some exotic fruits and vegetables) can easily be harvested even by Ukrainian farmers. Even in the Kyiv region, in a few years, there will be enough heat for growing grapes, adds Oleksiy Mushak, a former Advisor to the Prime Minister for Economic Affairs and Land Reform.
«The trend is that there are more and more "hot" days. In addition, unlike hot countries, we can also add watering. The combination of these two positions leads to the fact that it is profitable to grow exotic plants.»
Former Advisor to the Prime Minister for Economic Affairs
Farmers in the south of our country came to the same conclusion and picked up the trend. A farmer from the Zaporizhzhia region, Viktoria Verozubova-Sus, grows such rare plants for Ukraine as okra and artichoke that come from hot regions—the first one is grown in Africa and India, and the second one—on the shores of the Mediterranean.
The modern Ukrainian climate in the southern regions is suitable for okra: this vegetable likes heat and easily tolerates drought, and therefore the lack of water will not be a problem for it. Verozubova-Sus says that she has long wanted to start growing okra. But before, no one needed this crop. Now the demand has appeared and the niche has opened.
"If last year we planted it and didn't really know where to put it, what to do with it and to whom to sell it, then this year the demand has completely exceeded the supply and the okra has paid off," says the businesswoman.
The artichoke is a more finicking crop. Of the 50 bushes planted by the farmer last year, only two survived the winter. According to her, so far this plant is more interesting for Ukraine not as food, but as a tourist and floristic amusement.
"People want to see how it grows, and floristic shops are happy when we sell them an artichoke at a ridiculous price—30 UAH per bud," explains Viktoria.
What the future holds for farmers with climate change
The change in the agricultural climate is pushing more and more towards the development of new crops for Ukrainians and the emergence of niches that are non-traditional for the country. And soon they will occupy a noticeable share in the production structure of the country's agro-industrial complex, Trofimtseva believes.
Ukrainian farmers will be forced to change the structure of sown areas, and breeders will have to develop new hybrids and varieties of those crops that are traditionally grown in the country (wheat, rye, corn, sunflower).
Opportunities have appeared now. Chernihiv and Sumy regions that until now were not considered particularly attractive for the agricultural sector, now show some of the best harvests in the country. The average temperature in the region has risen, but the moisture remains, explains Mushak.
The cultivation of industrial crops has already shifted to the north. The southern regions—Mykolaiv, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions—have come close to the lower threshold of the subtropics. "And if adding watering there, it is possible to have even double cropping a year," he says.
But these are only the first steps. Over time, the Ukrainian agro-industrial complex should not only change its traditional structure, but also receive an incentive for future development. Not only adapt its sowing, but also master new technologies, artificial intelligence, and value-added production.