Farm leader Peter Kendall has called for more research to help global food producers meet the challenges of climate change.
Speaking in his role as president of the World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO), Mr Kendall said agriculture needed to become more resilient to climate risks.
“Farmers are on the front line of the climate change agenda,” he said.
“Farmers are not only directly impacted by climate change, but are also vital in implementing solutions we need to in order to adapt and mitigate.”
Mr Kendall joined more than more than 120 heads of state and government at a Climate Summit hosted by the UN in Rome, Italy.
“We must reposition farmers at the centre of the agriculture sector to become more resilient to climate risks,” said Mr Kendall.
A strong and viable agricultural sector was vital to guarantee a stable and resilient future food supply for a growing world population, he added.
The high-level meeting brought together representatives from UN agencies together with business leaders of the world’s largest food companies, key commodity and input producers.
Mr Kendall said: “Agriculture, climate, food security and poverty reduction are inextricably linked.
“Farmers, especially in developing countries, need the support of research centres to become more resilient to adapt to climate change, and to ensure higher crop yields.”
He added: “Without research and innovation, farmers would not be about to produce more yields or higher-quality foods, or strengthen future farming involvement of young people and women.”
The WFO supported the UN call to action on climate-smart agriculture, which offered “triple wins” of increased food production, climate change mitigation, and adaptation.
Voluntary schemes were needed to reward farmers for implementing agricultural and environmental practices that developed efficiency and productivity.
An incentive-based approach to climate mitigation and adaptation, as opposed to a penalty-based approach, will have a positive, long-term effect, said Mr Kendall.
Adaptation to climate change is necessary to sustain crop yields and secure farmer livelihoods across the globe, he added.
NFU vice-president Guy Smith said: “Farmers are faced with the twin challenges of weather-proofing their farms while feeding a burgeoning world population.
“It is important that the UN listens to farmers when it discusses climate change.
“That’s why the WFO attending the UN summit will help to ensure that the voices of all the world’s farmers are heard.”