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ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #400362

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

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Title: Climate change and alfalfa production

item Rotz, Clarence - Al

Submitted to: Progressive Forage Grower
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/19/2022
Publication Date: 1/11/2023
Citation: Rotz, C.A. 2023. Climate change and alfalfa production. Progressive Forage Grower. 1(2023):18-20.

Interpretive Summary: No Interpretive Summary is required for this Trade Journal. JLB.

Technical Abstract: Average annual temperatures are increasing in most regions of the United States along with changes in precipitation patterns. These changes are affecting the production of alfalfa and other forage crops in many regions. Climate changes are primarily driven by increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels. Models that predict future climate indicate that ambient temperatures will continue to increase. Precipitation may also change with the general trend of wetter regions getting more rain and dry regions getting less. Increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere stimulates the growth of many crops including alfalfa. This increase along with other climate changes are predicted to increase alfalfa yields from 10 to 30% in most regions if adequate water is available to maintain that production. Management changes such as earlier harvests and additional cuttings will be needed to adapt to the changing climate. The greatest threat to long-term sustainability of alfalfa production is the availability of water, particularly in dry regions where production is dependent upon irrigation. Other challenges of changing climate may include increased weed, insect and disease pressure. Although the future offers challenges, with proper adaptation, alfalfa can remain and perhaps improve as a sustainable crop for current and future generations.