Skip to main content
ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #397419

Research Project: Sustainable Intensification of Crop and Integrated Crop-Livestock Systems at Multiple Scales

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Title: Climate change & forage production

item Rotz, Clarence - Al

Submitted to: Proceedings of the World Alfalfa Congress
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/21/2022
Publication Date: 11/10/2022
Citation: Rotz, C.A. 2022. Climate change & forage production[abstract]. Proceedings of the World Alfalfa Congress. p. 1.

Interpretive Summary: No Interpretive Summary is required for this Abstract Only. JLB.

Technical Abstract: Historical records show that average annual temperatures are increasing in most parts of the world. Precipitation patterns are also changing where, in general, storm intensities are increasing with drier areas getting drier and wetter areas getting wetter. These changes are primarily driven by increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels. Models that predict future climate trends indicate that ambient temperatures will continue to increase along with further changes in precipitation. These changes may increase alfalfa yields as long as adequate water is available to maintain this production. The increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can stimulate the growth of some crops including alfalfa. In some regions, increased ambient temperature may also be beneficial. In areas where precipitation is increasing, this may also be beneficial; however, higher temperatures increase evapotranspiration which may offset the additional rainfall. In regions that depend upon irrigation, the greatest threat to long-term sustainability of the production of alfalfa and other forage crops is the availability of water. Management changes such as earlier harvests and additional cuttings will be needed to adjust to the changing climate. In regions where precipitation is increasing, more frequent rainfall can exacerbate the challenges of field curing hay. Another consideration is that changing climate may increase weed and insect pressures. Climate change and related atmospheric changes can have both positive and negative impacts on alfalfa and other forage crops, and these impacts will vary across global regions. Although climate change is presenting challenges to forage production, flexibility in management can provide a sustainable future.