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Climate change, how does agriculture adapt?


Everybody knows that some kind of climate change is occuring. The question is, can agriculture use climate change to its advantage?

Studies show that some crops, like cotton, can handle higher temperatures more efficiently, while others, like corn and grain sorghum, are very responsive to elevated levels of carbon dioxide.

Some physiologists have attributed the increase in cotton yields over the past 20 years to the slow, upward trend in carbon dioxide.

A week ago, a giant snowstorm passed through the Mid-South. Today, it’s 71 degrees outside. Who knows what next week will bring. And it’s only February for gosh sakes.

All this just reinforces in my mind that some sort of climate change is occurring. Whether this change is caused by global warming, or whether or not global warming is caused by man’s activities, is irrelevant.

Governments believe they can reverse climate change through carbon credits, regionalization of economies, wind power, solar panels, etc. But I’m not so sure. The world’s industrial economy is a force not easily reckoned or tinkered with. For example, what does reducing greenhouse gas emissions here in the United States accomplish when China is expanding its highway construction and threatening to surpass the United States in automobile ownership?

We did not discuss who or what is to blame for climate change, or whether or not it is possible to reverse its effects. The point of the discussion centered on how agriculture can adapt and either use climate change to our advantage, or at least make it possible for agriculture to succeed in spite of it.

 “U.S. agriculture has some unique capabilities that our competitors do not have,” said Kater Hake, vice president of agricultural research, Cotton Incorporated, who led the discussion. “Understanding those advantages and how we can maximize them will make us more profitable in the long term.”

One of the most interesting concepts was the impact of temperature and carbon dioxide on crop yield. Hake pointed out that some crops, like cotton, can handle higher temperatures more efficiently, while others, like corn and grain sorghum in particular, are very responsive to elevated levels of carbon dioxide.

Cotton, corn and peanuts seem to handle the combination of higher temperatures and elevated carbon dioxide better than other crops. Hake noted that some physiologists have attributed the increase in cotton yields over the last 20 years to the slow, upward trend in carbon dioxide. “I certainly couldn’t disagree with that.”

Hake believes that climate disruption will impact agriculture in many ways over the next 20 to 30 years, and these changes will reverberate across the globe.

“It’s going to do it directly through weather variability – too wet, too dry, too hot, too cold. This can have a rapid effect on commodity prices and governmental policies.”

Industries that do the best job of adapting to this volatility and variability will come out on top.


Discuss this Blog Entry 3

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 1, 2011

The recent patterns are "normal" weather events of which similar events occur over time. "Normal" but not occurring often. Most people relate weather to what they remember or what they think they have experienced. Unfortunately most people can't remember back more that about 40 years.

Everitt Foust (not verified)
on Mar 1, 2011

I am a resident of Montana and I have lived in the state over 82 years on a farm in Northwest Montana.
My recollections of the thirties and forties are of much warmer springs and average winters. Now,I have noticed much colder springs since that time with later frosts in the fall, longer and wetter winters with cooler summers. As a boy, I can recall having all our sugar beets thinned by the first of May and never had them frozen out. I would never try that now. We now frequently get killing frosts as late as the middle of May in our area.
In general, I feel we are moving rapidly into a cooler period than I knew as a boy and youth. I would welcome a return to warmer years. The storms we have had so far this winter are far more harsh and often than I can ever remember. February has always been (until this year) a warm period. We always plan to calve during this month and usually do a lot of land preparation because of it's mildness. Not so this year however. This year, the prolonged and unusually long and protracted winter which started in early November and is still with us. This has caused us to lose more calves to chilling and pneumonia than I can ever recall. It has also snowed more times this winter than I can ever recall.

"Global Warming." Has anyone noticed that those who thought up this controversial term have now cleverly changed it to "Climate Change" because they apparently are having a hard time convincing most Americans to buy the "Global Warming" theory. Obviously, the meaning of "Climate Change" is so far removed from the meaning of the term "Global Warming" that it almost insults the intelligence to use it in the same sentence trying to imply thhat they mean the same thing!. Every day we experience "Climate Change" as jet streams endlessly traverse the earths' surface modifying climates of differing parts of the globe.
Sure, we are experiencing "Climate Change" Always have, always will Can man change it? Try stopping a blizzard or a thunder storm! There are better things to do with our time and hard earned money!.

EarnestCrist (not verified)
on Mar 3, 2011

Ya know, the Climatalogical Survey folks in Oklahoma have been saying for several years now that what we can expect is just what we are seeing--more radical weather changes.

We are used to seeing droughts and heavy rain events in Oklahoma--they say it will just be more of the same only the droughts will be longer, hotter and dryer--the rain events will be more violent and do more damage. We can look forward to late freezes and mild dry winters (that will be real good on the winter wheat crop).

We can do some mitigation on climate change, but thanks to our "leadership" in Washington and in our ag groups we are probably stuck with what is about to happen. I just hope we can figure out some good adaptation strategies.

Can't wait to see how many e-mails you get calling you commie, liberal what-cha-ma-callits for even having the termidity to write an article pointing out what is happening.

For what it's worth, thanks for the reporting.

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