Submitted to: Agronomy Journal
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/3/2013
Publication Date: 1/10/2014
Citation: Resop, J.P., Fleisher, D.H., Timlin, D.J., Reddy, V. 2014. Biophysical constraints to potential production capacity of potatoes over the U.S. eastern seaboard. Agronomy Journal. 106(1):45-56. Interpretive Summary: The eastern seaboard region (ESR) of the United States is a densely populated area that depends on the importation of distantly produced food to satisfy consumption demands. Agricultural systems supplying the ESR are vulnerable to uncertainties such as environmental conditions, climate change, and transportation costs. Local populations could benefit from regional food systems as a way to provide security and sustain urban growth; however, the potential production capacity of the region and biophysical constraints to production would need to be quantified. Potential production capacity for a specific crop, potato, was explored in two ways: by expansion of the harvested land area and by closing the yield gap between observed and potential yield. Potato production within the ESR was assessed from Maine to Virginia over current land use (land under potato cultivation) and potential land use (other cropland). Simulations were based on two water availability scenarios: water-limited (rain-fed) and non-limited (irrigated). A geospatial crop model implementing the mechanistic potato model SPUDSIM was used to estimate outcomes of crop production (crop yield, water use, and nitrogen uptake) based on spatially-variable input data (weather, soil, and management). Potato production was simulated in 35 current potato producing counties to compare with observed USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) data and then estimated for 346 counties with existing non-potato cropland. The response surface of potato production showed greater yield under water-limited conditions in the northern ESR states (median 28.24 Mg ha-1) than in the southern states (median 15.41 Mg ha-1). Along with potential production capacity, the resource requirements (water and nitrogen) and biophysical constraints (climate and soil) to production were also evaluated. In general, potato yield was negatively correlated with higher average seasonal temperatures and denser soil profiles. The results from this study will be valuable for regional policy planners to assess the capacity of the local ESR food system.
Technical Abstract: Food security is an important issue throughout the world, even in developed countries such as the United States. In particular, the eastern seaboard region (from Maine to Virginia) is a highly dense urban area and it has been estimated that 12% of its population is food insecure, defined as people who are unable to meet recommended dietary needs due to the lack of resources. It has also been estimated that the region is only 24% self-sufficient in food production, meaning that a large majority of food is imported from other areas at long distances. Better understanding the potential of local food systems within the eastern seaboard region could help the region become more self-sufficient and food secure. A crop model was implemented to estimate the potential production capacity (how much can be grown and where) of potatoes within the region. The greatest potential for potato production was found in the cooler, more northern, parts of the region. For most southern areas, irrigation is required for a productive yield. Increased knowledge of regional food systems can assist food growers, policy planners, and scientists in further studying potential production capacity under different future scenarios, such as climate change.