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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Urbana, Illinois » Global Change and Photosynthesis Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #308310

Title: Biophysical impacts of climate-smart agriculture in the Midwest United States

item BAGLEY, JUSTIN - Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
item MILLER, JESSE - University Of Illinois
item Bernacchi, Carl

Submitted to: Plant, Cell & Environment
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/1/2014
Publication Date: 1/23/2015
Citation: Bagley, J.E., Miller, J.N., Bernacchi, C.J. 2015. Biophysical impacts of climate-smart agriculture in the Midwest United States. Plant, Cell & Environment. doi: 10.111/pce.12485.

Interpretive Summary: The link between plants and the atmosphere is strong, such that The link between plants can influence the climate in many different ways. Recently, research is beginning to focus on using plants to manage climate in different ways. his focus, referred to as climate-smart agriculture, can use many different strategies to achieve a specific outcome. This paper addresses a number of scenarios that may lead to improving the climate in the Midwestern US through altering how agriculture is managed. The strategies include longer growing seasons, consistent with a warming climate, and perennialization of agriculture through the use of highly productive grasses. The impact on climate includes the cooling of the surface through plant water use and the reflectivity of the surface driven by different types of ground cover. The results suggest that many of the strategies used to increase production of plants is consistent with techniques that can slow the warming in the Midwestern US.

Technical Abstract: The potential impacts of climate change in the Midwest United States present unprecedented challenges to regional agriculture. In response to these challenges, a variety of climate-smart agricultural methodologies have been proposed to retain or improve crop yields, reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, retain soil quality, and increase climate resilience of agricultural systems. One component that is commonly neglected when assessing the environmental impacts of climate-smart agriculture is the biophysical impacts, where changes in ecosystem fluxes and storage of moisture and energy lead to perturbations in local climate and water availability. Using a combination of observational data, an agroecosystem model, and a bulk-boundary layer model a series of climate-smart agricultural scenarios are assessed to determine the biophysical impacts these techniques have in the Midwest US. The first scenario extends the growing season for existing crops using future temperature and CO2 concentrations. The second scenario examines the biophysical impacts of no-till agriculture and the impacts of annually retaining crop debris. Finally, the third scenario evaluates the potential impacts that the adoption of perennial cultivars may have on biophysical quantities. Each of these scenarios was found to have significant biophysical impacts. However, timing and magnitude of the biophysical impacts differed between scenarios.