The conference “Agriculture and Climate change, Challenges and Opportunities” (www.agriclimchange.com), organized by the Italian partnership of MACSUR, funded by the Italian Ministry for Agriculture and carried out in Rome on December 12-13, 2017, was attended by 90 people among researchers (67%), executives and officials of government institutions (17%), representatives of farmers’ associations (8%) and journalists (9%).. The conference contributed to generate a debate among multiple stakeholders on the expected impacts of climate change on Italian agriculture and the options for adaptation at different scales.
In the first conference session, three working groups identified a range of adaptation options for i) forage systems, ii) cereals and industrial crops and iii) perennial crops (including trees). Each group chose two cropping systems in relation to their economic relevance for Italian agriculture and the available scientific evidence. Farmers’ participation was enabled through the projection, in the second session of the conference, of a 15-min video containing the perspectives on climate change adaptation of farmers and entrepreneurs of the agri-food and agri-industrial sectors in three Italian regions (Piedmont, Tuscany and Sardinia). The working group reports and the farmers’ interviews offered an ideal ground for two roundtables, intended as a space for dialogue around technical and policy adaptation issues.
A converging outcome from the roundtables is that the challenges associated with climate change require the integration of top-down, research/assessment-driven approaches (e.g. breeding, technological innovation), and bottom-up, context-driven approaches based on long-term interactions with stakeholders, along with technology transfer and training. The EIP-AGRI programme can be relevant for such integrations. In this context, new communication paradigms should focus on probability distributions of indicators capturing the perception and the needs of different types of farmers far better than abstractions like the annual mean temperature rise. Farmers’ associations and Agricultural Ministry representatives highlighted the needs for investing in improved risk management tools (e.g. insurances) through the careful application of dedicated measures within rural development programmes. It is crucial, for supporting policymaking, to engage specific competences (e.g. agro-climatic and economic research, environmental and rural development policies) and invest in the availability of high-resolution datasets (e.g. climate, soil, crop management) in support of well-contextualized strategic choices, investments in infrastructures, risk management and biodiversity conservation.