Cham , 22.07.2021

The Climate Garden shows the impact of rising temperatures on plants

The local population can visit an experiment on plant cultivation in the Schluechthof.

The series of storms over the last few days has had dramatic effects in some areas of Central Europe. Further heavy precipitation and heat waves are forecast as a result of climate change. Although science has been warning about this for some time, little has happened so far.

The travelling exhibition "Klimagarten (Climate Garden) 2085", which can be seen in the outdoor area of the Schluechthof Agricultural Education and Counselling Centre in Cham (LBBZ) up to September, also aims to draw attention to the effects of climate change. In the garden, visitors can directly experience how various crops react to warming and drought: wheat, corn, potatoes, sunflowers and other cultivated plants are planted in both the greenhouses and in the adjacent open space: It’s all about our future food supply.

Greenhouses with different temperatures
Social anthropologist Janna Ottiger will be working as a Climate Garden intern at the LBBZ during the summer. During yesterday's tour, she explains how changes in the climate could have an impact:

"Up to the harvest season in September, two climate scenarios will be simulated in the two greenhouses: the temperature in Greenhouse A is set to +3 °C above today's average temperatures in summer; next door, in Greenhouse B, it’s set to + 6.5 °C."

She thereby points out that the plant species are planted in two rows in each of the two greenhouses. The back row receives 30% less water than the front row, and this can be seen in the poorer growth of some of the plants.

It’s oppressively hot in the glasshouses, and controlling the temperature is difficult. Janna Ottiger has also carried out the watering of the plants according to the recommendations of the LBBZ plant growers, and has found that they react differently to the amount of water. But she also points out that the cycle in greenhouses is different from that in nature: "You can't give as much water here as there is outside."

Photo 1: Social anthropologist Janna Ottiger, sitting in one of the two plant houses, takes care of the Climate Garden
Photo 2: The experiment is taking place in two greenhouses

Image: Maria Schmid (Cham, 19 July 2021)

In Greenhouse B, which is +6.5 °C warmer, the growth is better for certain plants, such as sunflower, corn and sorghum millet. "But the broad beans have no chance here, their flowers wither. The potatoes grew well at first, but now they have become leggy. Unlike outside, the wheat has also remained small and seems to dry up."

Although the plants in the outer bed have visibly suffered from the hailstorms, some still look stronger and greener.

It is important for Janna Ottiger to point out that the LBBZ is not carrying out any research with the climate garden, but that it is intended as a travelling exhibition. "A lot of people have already come to visit, and were very interested. School classes have also visited, and all are welcome. We have planned further workshops after the summer holidays." She describes the experiment as very exciting. "It's difficult to imagine what it would be like if it gets much hotter. And the extreme environmental influences cannot be simulated. Nevertheless, it is obvious how the plants here have reacted."

A broad cooperation
The "Climate Garden 2085" was developed by the Zurich-Basel Plant Centre, a joint venture between the ETH Zurich and the Universities of Zurich and Basel, together with HSR (the Technical University Rapperswil), with both researchers and artists. Many scientists are convinced that even with strict emission controls, as laid down in the Paris Agreement in 2015, the average summer temperature in 2085 will nevertheless rise by +1.5 °C, and by up to +5 °C without any emission control.

That is why, with this exhibition, the organisers want to let the public directly experience climate changes and their effects on the environment . It also shows what global climate models can really look like at the local level. Information, workshops and guided tours provide an insight into the topics of garden and meadows, as well as field and forest.