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Research Project: Adaptation Resources Workbook/Climate Smart Agriculture Guidebooks for California Speciality Crops

Location: Crops Pathology and Genetics Research

Project Number: 2032-21220-008-24-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 15, 2018
End Date: Jul 31, 2020

Climate change and productivity are very tightly linked in the agricultural sector and industry in California. Climate change and variability are having an acute effect on agriculture in California, which is expected to intensify in the years and decades to come. Agriculture’s footprint is roughly a quarter of the state’s area, so the nexus among climate, resource availability, and economic stability is critical. Specialty crop producers can benefit from actionable, user-driven resources to enable nimble decision-making in the face of new challenges, and to build long-term capacity for adaptation to future climate stressors. The USDA California Climate Hub in partnership with the John Muir Institute of the Environment proposes to create an adaptation resources workbook for California specialty crop growers to respond to climate change and variability as part of its mission to develop, educate, and deliver science-based, region-specific tools for growers. The proposed product is an innovative approach based on successful adaptive management principles that works at the scale of farms and fields: the scale at which grower decision-making and climate adaptation occur. The scope of this workbook will be generally applicable to specialty crop growers (vineyards, orchards, and other tree nut and fruit specialty crops), both conventional and organic in CA and portions of AZ with similar crop types and environmental stressors.

The adaptation resources workbook will enable growers to plan for future climate scenarios by supporting a grower-driven decision process to evaluate risks and plan for desired outcomes under climate change. This process facilitates planning for economic stability through increased responsiveness to climate change and related fluctuations in market conditions. It also integrates resources aligned with both California state and federal incentive programs related to climate adaptation (e.g., EQIP, Healthy Soils, SWEEP) into one location, as navigating these varied programs can be challenging and can limit grower participation. This workbook will present resources intended to educate producers and extension agents that are tailored to California’s specialty crops sector, and that will assist them in integrating climate proactive adaptation practices into both short- and long-term decision-making. The adaptation process begins by promoting the grower to define personal objectives for production, profitability, and resource stewardship in his or her particular location – which should be in alignment with the farm management plan. The workbook includes a “menu” of adaptation strategies and approaches, which serve as stepping stones for connecting broader climate change adaptation concepts to specific implementation actions. This is a flexible, yet structured, approach that accommodates multiple goals (e.g., maintaining productivity, stabilizing yields under fluctuation climate conditions, provisioning of additional agro-ecosystem services), commodities, cropping systems, and geographies. The intentional consideration of climatic effects makes clear where current practices should remain unchanged, and identifies areas in which new practices may be in order, either to buffer against potential negative impacts (e.g., yield losses due to more frequent or severe drought) or to take advantage of possible opportunities (e.g., crop type or cropping system). We will build upon the structure and framework developed in other successful adaptation resources workbooks produced by the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Sciences, along with the USDA Northeast and Northern Forests Climate Hubs, for the agricultural and forestry sectors in other parts of the country