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ARS Home » Plains Area » Lincoln, Nebraska » Agroecosystem Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #336343

Research Project: Management and Soil Resource Evaluation to Enhance Agricultural System Resilience and Sustainability

Location: Agroecosystem Management Research

Title: Vulnerability of crops and croplands in the U.S. Northern Plains to predicted climate change

Author
item Wienhold, Brian
item Vigil, Merle
item Hendrickson, John
item Derner, Justin

Submitted to: Climatic Change
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/3/2017
Publication Date: 5/23/2017
Publication URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/5763081
Citation: Wienhold, B.J., Vigil, M.F., Hendrickson, J.R., Derner, J.D. 2017. Vulnerability of crops and croplands in the U.S. Northern Plains to predicted climate change. Climatic Change. doi:10.1007/s10584-017-1989-x.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-017-1989-x

Interpretive Summary: The Northern Great Plains region (Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming) produces a significant proportion of the nation’s agricultural output. Fertile soils and abundant water resources support a diverse agriculture. The region also provides ecological services related to air, water, and soil quality and biological diversity. Projected changes in temperature and precipitation between now and the end of the 21st century will provide opportunities and challenges to the region. Temperatures are projected to increase resulting in a longer frost free period. Precipitation is expected to increase in the northern part of the region with little change in the southern part of the region. There will also be an increase in the proportion of precipitation received in high intensity events. These changes will increases crop stress, reduce yields, and place increased pressure on soil and water resources. Adaptation to these projected changes includes: increasing cropping intensity, reducing tillage intensity, and use of cover crops to provide surface cover to reduce erosion potential and improve nutrient and water use efficiency. Increased use of perennial forages, crop residue, and failed crops in integrated crop/livestock systems will add diversity and provide options for converting vegetation into protein. Adaptation planning will need to be conducted in a way to insure that sustaining ecosystem services and meeting competing demands is accomplished. Education and extension services will be needed to transfer adaptive knowledge in a timely manner.

Technical Abstract: The states of Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming comprise the Northern Great Plains region of the United States. The soil and water resources contained in this region have historically supported a highly diverse and productive agriculture that provides a significant proportion of the food, feed, and oilseed for the nation. The region also provides ecological services that influence air, water, and soil quality along with biological diversity. Combined with livestock production and a biofuel industry, crop production forms an integrated system that can offer producers flexibility in management decisions. Projected changes for this region include increasing atmospheric CO2, a longer, warmer growing season, and increased precipitation likely received in more frequent extreme events. These changes will impact soil and water resources in the region and create opportunities and challenges for land managers. The objectives of this paper are: 1.) to describe anticipated impacts of climate change on crop production systems in the Northern Great Plains and 2.) to suggest adaptation approaches that should be developed to take advantage of positive changes and mitigate the effect of negative changes. Projected changes will influence agricultural productivity directly as well as indirectly due to changes in weed pressure, insect populations, and diseases. A warmer, longer growing season will change the crops and distribution of those crops grown within the region. An increase in the number of extreme temperature events (high daytime highs or nighttime lows) will decrease crop yields due to increased stress during critical pollination and grain fill periods. Adaptation strategies to reduce vulnerability of soil and water resources to projected changes include: increasing cropping intensity, reducing tillage intensity, and use of cover crops to provide surface cover to reduce erosion potential and improve nutrient and water use efficiency. Increased use of perennial forages, crop residue, and failed crops in integrated crop/livestock systems will add diversity and provide options for converting vegetation into protein. Socio-economic changes will need to be part of adaptation planning to insure that sustaining ecosystem services and meeting competing demands is accomplished. Education and extension services will be needed to transfer adaptive knowledge in a timely manner.