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Leafhoppers ate my climate

06 Mar 2024 | OP ED Watch

One rule of climate change journalactiviscience is that anything, no matter how small or tentative, can be reported as proof that we are wrecking the planet. But nothing can be cited as potential evidence that we are helping it. Every single impact of warming has to be bad. QED. And thus “In Quebec’s strawberry fields, a tiny insect may forecast big climate impacts: study”. Sure, but only if farmers forget everything they’ve ever known about how to grow crops.

The problem, and of course it’s a problem, a crisis even, is that:

“A bug encroaching on Quebec’s strawberry fields could help forecast climate change’s impact on agriculture, a new study suggests, the latest to consider what the authors called the ‘colossal task’ of sustainable farming on a warming planet.”

The colossal task. Of course. Because everybody knows that farming is easy in colder climates, with short growing seasons and early or late frosts, and a nightmare in places where it’s warm. No wonder Canada outproduces the United States.

No, wait. Plants like warmth. But so do bugs. Some of them anyway. Not of course bees and other beneficial pollinators. Heck no. For them “Climate Change Is Ratcheting Up the Pressure on Bees” and doom looms:

“Bees have a special ability to remember these scents in their search for pollen. Climate change has resulted in plants changing their scents because they are climate stressed. As a result, it is difficult for bees to find plants for food, leading to the loss of bee populations.”

Strawberries too will get the chop:

“Building off a crop model developed by researchers at the University of Florida, our research looked at how a middle-of-the-road climate scenario of a temperature rise of 4.3°F by 2050 would increase ‘killing degree days’ when temperatures are, at best, too hot for strawberries to grow and, at worst, damage or kill them. Our analyses also looked at anticipated changes to rainfall and humidity that will increase water needs for strawberry plants. The outlook was discouraging.”

A middle-of-the-road climate scenario, mind you.

On the other hand if you’re nasty, a hint is like proof on climate:

“Researchers out of Laval University say migratory leafhoppers – small cicada-like insects that benefit from temperature increases – appear to be arriving earlier in the season and dominating fields around Quebec City.”

Appear to be. Could be random, or a fluctuation disguised as a trend, right? Heavens no:

“They suggest the leafhopper’s migratory patterns, expanded territory and potential to carry plant diseases help make the insect an ideal model species for scientists to study how climate change is affecting agriculture.”

Unlike anything encouraging. Thus:

“The research adds to the science about how climate-driven pest invasions could threaten food security and exacerbate agriculture’s environmental impact due to increased pesticide use, the study said.”

Now look. Not only do farmers manage to grow strawberries in places where it is already warmer than Quebec City, but we also know Earth has been a lot warmer than it is now for virtually its entire history, especially since the “Cambrian explosion” of multi-celled life just over half a billion years ago. And it has been lush.

The Jurassic was not noted for the arid wastelands and small marginal species clinging to existence. Nor was the Cretaceous. And after the non-avian dinosaurs were wiped out by an extraterrestrial rather than climate catastrophe, the warm weather of the Paleocene and Eocene saw an astounding proliferation of species not a constant grim battle with extinction.

Even within the Holocene, the warm Optimum early on featured the part of northern Africa that is now desert filled with waterways, lush plants and charismatic megafauna. Oh, and what was that other thing? Right. The invention of agriculture.

Possibly our ancestors, not yet having writing and generally being way dumber than us, didn’t realize the crops would have wilted even if the serried ranks of predatory bugs had not descended on them in the hellish landscape of a world 2C or more warmer than it is now.

We know better. See:

“Leafhoppers are well-known carriers of bacteria viruses, the study said, and more research is needed to figure out if they are contributing to a reported increase in diseased strawberry plants around Quebec. There were 16 cases of strawberry green petal disease reported in Quebec between 2012 and 2022, with a clear increase in the last three years, the study said.”

Right. Sixteen cases in eleven years, so fully 1.45 a year. Proof positive. Except the bit where more research is needed. So are we faced with uncertainty, especially given the trivial sample size including chronologically and geographically?

No. Of course not. The science is settled, remember? And so doom looms:

“‘If achieving sustainable agriculture is a challenge, achieving sustainable agriculture in a changing climate is a colossal task that requires all the tools at our disposal,’ the study read.”

As it would. Our children will not know what strawberries are. Or possibly sound reasoning.

5 comments on “Leafhoppers ate my climate”

  1. …… because strawberries don’t grow near Albany NY which now has a climate like the predicted future climate in Quebec?

  2. Did anyone study leafhoppers on Quebec strawberries prior to 2012? I know where I’ll place my bet.

  3. The whole purpose of academic research is to generate reports which end in the magic words "more research is needed", thereby providing the basis for one's next reearch grant. To write a report suggesting that one's subject needs no further work is academic suicide.
    Years ago one academic I knew had a bright idea early in his career which could reasonably have been expanded into three or four papers. The last I heard he and his students had parlayed this idea into 116 publications of various kinds.

  4. I read articles like this now and again. Supposedly because of GW insects are going to migrate towards the poles because the warming and changing climate will suit them and that will be disastrous for the crops that will be destroyed as a result. The article is written to further angst in the reader citing matters of “food security.” This is nonsense. For anyone who studies insects and their populations knows that every insect has its predators. If it would not be for their predators then the world would be overrun with insects at every turn. Truth is that whenever insects migrate to other places their predators inevitably follow them to those new areas so the natural balance of prey vs predator is maintained.

    Of course, this article just assumes that farmers are ignorant of how to deal with harmful insects. As a farmer for the last 40 years I am offended by the author thinking that we are mere nitwits who would struggle (unsuccessfully?) to reduce an outbreak of simple leaf hoppers. I had an outbreak of leaf-hoppers in my raspberry crop the other year and decided not to spray pesticides so to allow the predators to deal with them. So in short time the leaf hopper population dropped to an acceptable level showing that the predators dealt with them swiftly and severely.

    So leaf-hoppers carry diseases? Well, so does every sucking and chewing insect. Spider mites, katydids, aphids, thrips, stink bugs, squash bugs – they all carry bacteria and fungi in their mouth parts. So do chewing insects and I have a list of those that are as long as your arm. The author knows little about plants and farming. Truth is that all plants have immune systems and if the plants are kept healthy with adequate nutrition their immune systems will come into play and repel such diseases.

  5. "It would be a shame if there were no funding for your entomology research Dr. Rosensplatt. What are the magic words again?.... There you go. Climate change....." Cha Ching!

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