Warmer Greenland a boon for farmers

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New York, Oct 29 (UNI) A Greenlandic supermarket is stocking locally grown cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage this year for the first time, eight sheep farmers are growing potatoes commercially while five more are experimenting with vegetables all thanks to global warming.

Although Greenland is the size of Europe, it has only nine conifer forests -- all of them cultivated. It has only 51 farms.

Except for spuds, the only vegetables most Greenlanders ever eat are imported, mostly from Denmark.

''The limiting factor for human survival here is temperature, and there's a lot of benefits with a warmer climate,'' Mr Kenneth Hoeg, chief Agriculture advisor of the southern Greenland region, said. ''We are on the frontier of agriculture, and even a few degrees can make a difference,'' he was quoted by New York Times as saying.

Greenland, a self-governing province of Denmark, was settled by the pugilistic Viking Erik the Red in the 10th century, after his murderous ways got him ejected from Iceland. Legend has it that he called it Greenland as a way to entice others to join him, and, in fact, it was.

It was relatively green then, with forests and fertile soil, and the Vikings grew crops and raised sheep for hundreds of years. But temperatures dropped precipitously in the so-called Little Ice Age, which began in the 16th century, the Norse settlers died out and agriculture was no longer possible.

Climate is a delicate matter in a place like Greenland.

A degree more of warmth here, an inch less of rain there; these can have serious repercussions for a farmer eking out a living raising sheep on the harsh terrain. But while temperatures in the south dipped in the 1980s, they have risen steadily since.

Between 1961 and 1990, the average annual temperature was 33 degrees; in 2006, it was 35 degrees, according to the Danish Meteorological Institute.

Winter is coming later and leaving earlier. That means there is more time to leave sheep in the mountains, more time to grow crops, more time to work outdoors, more opportunity to travel by boat, since the fjords (a long, narrow arm of the sea bordered by steep cliffs: usually formed by glacial erosion) freeze later and less frequently.

Ewes are having fatter lambs, and more of them every season.

The growing season, such as it is, now lasts roughly from mid-May through mid-September, about three weeks longer than a decade ago.

UNI

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