USDA Reports Say Climate Change Will Affect Agriculture, Forests

Two U.S. Department of Agriculture reports say U.S. agriculture and forests are being affected and will continue to be affected by climate change. It’s well documented that the climate is changing, that we are seeing changes in temperature and in changes precipitation patterns, and that those changes are having implications for forests and for agriculture. What these reports actually look at in more detail are the changes that we expect in changes in terms of extreme events. Changes in the probability of droughts, and floods and how that also will have implications for our resources. However, Hohenstein (ho-en-stine) says existing and new conservation practices and research will help U.S. agriculture and forestry adapt to climate change. As it turns out a lot of the conservation practices that we’ve been preaching for the last century, improved soil quality, improved water management, forest health, turn out to be the exact same things that we do to make our resources more resilient to extremes and change. If we can breed crops to be more resilient to change, and to have better tolerance to extreme temperatures during those critical times, we can make sure that we are going to be able to continue to produce the kinds of crops that we do now.

There are certain breeds of livestock that are more tolerant to warm temperatures, and then there’s also things that farmers can do like cooling systems for barns and investments that they can make to make their livestock more tolerant. Hohenstein says while there will be negative effects from climate change, some agriculture sectors could benefit. Longer growing seasons. In some cases increases in precipitation and more moisture that’s available. And then CO2 itself; carbon dioxide turns out to have a fertilizing effect on plants and so it can increase plant growth. And so at least over the next twenty to thirty years we expect to see a very mixed story in terms of how climate change plays out on the landscape. The climate change reports are available on USDA’s website. In Washington D.C.

for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, I’m Bob Ellison..