Sun, Mar 31, 2013 - Page 14 News List

Greenland sees good in global warming as thaw brings crops

By Alistair Scrutton  /  Reuters, KANGERLUSSUAQ, Greenland

Sten Erik Langstrup Pedersen, who runs an organic farm in a fjord near Nuuk, first grew potatoes in 1976. Now he can plant crops two weeks earlier in May and harvest three weeks later in October, compared with more than 10 years ago.

He grows 23 kinds of vegetables, compared with 15 a decade ago, including beans, peas, herbs and strawberries. He says he has sold some strawberries to top restaurants in Copenhagen.

Yet Pedersen is skeptical about how much it will catch on.

“Greenlanders are impatient. They see a seal and they immediately just want to hunt it. They can never wait for vegetables to grow,” he said.

There is still potential. Hoegh estimates Greenland could provide half its food needs from home-grown produce, which would be competitive with more expensive Danish imports.

However, climate change is not just beneficial. While summers are warmer, there is less rain. Some experts say Greenland could soon need irrigation — ironic for a country of ice and lakes.

“We have had dry summers for the last few years.” said Aqqalooraq Frederiksen, a senior agricultural consultant in south Greenland, who said that a late spring last year had hurt potato crops.

On the Arctic Circle, a flash flood last summer from suspected glacier meltwater — which some blamed on warm weather — swept away the only bridge connecting Ernst’s restaurant to the airport. It came right in the middle of the tourist season and lost the restaurant thousands of dollars.

It was an ominous reminder that global warming brings its problems. Still, for Pedersen, the future looks good.

“The hotter, the better,” Pedersen said. “For me.”

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