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ARS Home » Plains Area » Mandan, North Dakota » Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory » Research » Research Project #430726

Research Project: Vulnerability Assessment of Great Plains Agriculture to Climate Variability and Change

Location: Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory

Project Number: 3064-21660-004-03-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Mar 1, 2016
End Date: Feb 28, 2019

Objective 1. Characterize the unique climate change exposures projected to occur within the three climatic zones of the Great Plains. These include projections for warmer, wetter conditions in the northern plains; warmer, drier, conditions in the south plains; and warming with similar mean annual rainfall in the central plains. The agricultural impacts of increased climatic variability around these long-term projected means will be assessed with a series of drought and heat wave scenarios constructed from historical climatic data. Objective 2. Assess historical trends (1970 – 2010 on 5-yr intervals) in productivity, land cover, and geographic location of the major agricultural production systems, including their subcomponents, within the three climatic regions of the Great Plains. Historical trends in wetland and grassland coverage, including CRP, will be assessed as proxies of environmental quality, especially soil organic carbon and biodiversity. Major climatic and socio-economic variables, including agricultural policies, will be correlated with these historic trends in land use patterns to assess their relative contribution. Objective 3. The sensitivity (impact of exposure) of current production systems and their subcomponents to climate change and variability will be estimated and ranked on the basis of production potential, economic viability and the adaptive capacity that exists to develop and implement effective adaptation strategies. These assessments will identify production systems that are at risk of becoming non-viable in regions where currently practiced, identify regions where these systems may be economically viable in the future, and inform selection of alternative production systems that sustainably replace production systems that have relocated. Objective 4. Assess the potential benefits associated with various adaptations, independently and in combination, to offset the adverse consequences and to capture opportunities of climate change on agricultural systems, in each of three climatic regions. This information will be complied from the published experimental literature for all production systems and it will be used to develop a ranking of adaptations based on a cost:benefit analysis for each of the production systems in each of the three region. Objective 5. Compare the relative impacts of crop drought insurance with those estimated for climate change on future (2050) trends in productivity, land cover, and spatial location of major agricultural production systems. This will enable us to assess the extent to which these insurance provisions maintain or promote current and future agricultural trends by compensating for climate-induced economic losses. The ARS investigator will be primarily responsible for conducting research under objectives 3 and 5, with contributions to objectives 2 and 4.

Climate-induced changes in production, land coverage, and geographic location of major agricultural production systems will be projected for mid-century. The broad approach involves the use of crop models that can be coupled with the gridded climate data generated by climate model projections. These yield and spatial data will be incorporated into a bio-economic trade-off model to assess farmer adoption and economic impacts of production systems at current and alternative (northern) locations, both with and without the benefit of adaptations. Projections of future agricultural trends will be developed by linking output of bio-climatic and bio-economic models with GIS modeling. Specific GIS layers will be analyzed for climate impact, adaptation benefits, and economic outputs. Tradeoff analysis will include the benefits derived from crop insurance payments, in addition to the agricultural and economic impacts of climatic variability. This will enable us to assess the extent to which drought insurance maintains or promotes future agricultural trends by compensating for climate-induced economic crop and livestock losses.