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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Laboratory for Agriculture and The Environment » Soil, Water & Air Resources Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #332331

Research Project: Utilization of the G x E x M Framework to Develop Climate Adaptation Strategies for Temperate Agricultural Systems

Location: Soil, Water & Air Resources Research

Title: Indicators of climate change in agricultural systems

item Hatfield, Jerry
item ANTLE, JOHN - Oregon State University
item GARRETT, KAREN - University Of Florida
item IZAURRALDE, ROBERTO - University Of Maryland
item MADER, TERRY - University Of Nebraska
item MARSHALL, ELIZABETH - Economic Research Serivce (ERS, USDA)
item Nearing, Mark
item ROBERTSON, PHILIP - Michigan State University
item Ziska, Lewis

Submitted to: Climatic Change
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/13/2018
Publication Date: 6/30/2018
Citation: Hatfield, J.L., Antle, J., Garrett, K.A., Izaurralde, R.C., Mader, T., Marshall, E., Nearing, M., Robertson, G.P., Ziska, L. 2018. Indicators of climate change in agricultural systems. Climatic Change. 1-14.

Interpretive Summary: Climate change is often considered to be a vague term with no indication of the potential impact on aspects that matter to the general public. This is especially true in agriculture where aspects of climate change are considered to completely change agricultural production. In this effort, we have been evaluating different aspects of agricultural systems to determine what may be effective indicators of climate change for the US. We have examined all components of agriculture from the soil to economics and crop insurance. Indicators of climate change for the soil include water and wind erosion and how these will be affected by increases in the number of extreme events in precipitation and wind. Another soil parameter affected by climate change is soil carbon which is directly related to the ability of the soil to provide different functions. The increases in temperature will affect the number of chilling hours over the winter, causing a disruption in the flowering of perennial crops; however, a change in time of flowering is an indicator of warmer winters. There has been an increase in crop insurance claims and these are related to increases in the variability of weather during the growing season and is a potential indicator. One indicator of climate change is the observations on crop progress and productivity for different crops across the United States, these data are readily available with a historical record that allows for an examination of the changes induced by climate. This information is of value for policymakers, scientists, and agribusiness and is currently being transferred to these groups.

Technical Abstract: Climate change affects all segments of the agricultural enterprise and there is mounting evidence that the continuing warming trend with shifting seasonality and intensity in precipitation will increase the vulnerability of agricultural systems. Agriculture is a complex system within the United States encompassing a large number of crop and livestock systems, and development of indicators to provide a signal of the impact of climate change on these different systems would be beneficial to the development of strategies for effective adaptation practices. A series of indicators were evaluated to determine their potential for assessing agricultural response to climate change in the near-term and long-term and those with immediate capability of being implemented and those requiring more development. The available literature reveals indicators on livestock related to heat stress, soil erosion related to changes in precipitation, soil carbon changes in response to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide and soil management practices, economic response to climate change in agricultural production, and crop progress and productivity. Crop progress and productivity changes are readily observed data with a historical record for some crops extending back to the mid-1800’s. This length of historical record coupled with the county-level observations from each state where a crop is grown and emerging pest populations provides a detailed set of observations to assess the impact of a changing climate on agriculture. Continued refinement of tools to assess climate impacts on agriculture will provide guidance on the applicability of strategies to adapt to climate change.