A detailed report on ARS global change research appears
in the July 1997 issue of ARS' Agricultural Research magazine. Click here
to read the report on the web.
Global Climate Change: What Can Farmers Expect?
By Kathryn Barry
July 24, 1997
Global Climate Change. The Greenhouse Effect. These terms are
often heard nowadays, and what they could mean for the future is the subject of
scientific study around the world.
In the United States, the Agricultural Research Service is focusing
on the question: What could a wide-scale environmental shift really mean
for U.S. agriculture?
ARS scientists have found that farmers may have to alter cultural
practices or develop new crop varieties if carbon dioxide concentrations in the
atmosphere continue to increase.
Their findings include:
· Crops like rice, soybeans, wheat and cotton could produce
higher yields as CO2 concentrations rise, so long as temperatures dont
increase too much.
· Snowmelt, and the water it supplies for agriculture,
could be available in different amounts and at different times if temperatures
· Forage quality of rangeland grasses could decline, but
there would probably be more total grass production.
· Additional plant growth spurred by increased CO2 could
help control other environmental problems such as nitrate leaching and soil
The bottom line: Agriculture will need to make planned, manageable
adjustments. Further, farmers may be able to help mitigate global change.
Practices such as no-till farming help keep carbon in the soil rather than
release it into the air as CO2.
Scientific contact: Herman Mayeux, ARS National Program
Leader for Global Change, Beltsville, M., phone (301) 504-5281, fax 504-6231,