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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Adaptation of Crops to Increased Carbon Dioxide and Warming

Location: Adaptive Cropping Systems Laboratory

Title: Unique challenges and opportunities for Northeastern U.S. crop production in a changing climate

Author
item Wolfe, David
item Degaetano, Arthur
item Peck, Gregory
item Carey, Mary
item Ziska, Lewis
item Lea-cox, John
item Kemanian, Armen
item Hoffman, Michael
item Hollinger, David

Submitted to: Climatic Change
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/5/2017
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Climate change poses both challenges and opportunities for farming in the Northeastern United States. Opportunities may include longer-growing seasons with double-cropping and/or new crop varieties associated with warmer temperatures and a longer frost-free period. However, challenges include increased uncertainty of spring rains, delayed planting, and temperature extremes. Water management will also be a serious challenge for Northeast farmers in the future, with projections for increased frequency of heavy rainfall events, as well as projections for more frequent summer water deficits than have been experienced in the past. Potential adaptations to increase resilience and reduce vulnerability to such changes include: expanded irrigation capacity; modernized water monitoring and irrigation scheduling; farm drainage systems that collect excess rain into ponds for use as a water source during dry periods; and improved soil water holding capacity and drainage. Among the greatest vulnerabilities to the Northeastern perennial fruit crop industry (e.g. apples) is increased spring frost risk associated with warmer and more variable winter and spring temperatures. Improved real-time frost warning systems, careful site selection for new plantings, and use of misting, wind machine, or other frost protection measures will be important adaptation strategies. In addition, increased weed and pest pressures associated with longer growing seasons and warmer winters may represent another increasingly important challenge. Pro-active development of non-chemical control strategies, improved regional monitoring, and rapid-response plans for targeted control of invasive weeds and pests will be necessary. Overall, the information provided by this analysis will be of benefit for land managers, farmers, scientists and the general public.

Technical Abstract: Climate change may both exacerbate the vulnerabilities and open up new opportunities for farming in the Northeastern United States. Among the opportunities are double-cropping and new crop options that may come with warmer temperatures and a longer frost-free period. However, prolonged periods of spring rains in recent years have delayed planting and offset the potentially beneficial longer frost-free periods. Water management will be a serious challenge for Northeast farmers in the future, with projections for increased frequency of heavy rainfall events, as well as projections for more frequent summer water deficits than this historically humid region has experienced in the past. Adaptations to increase resilience to such changes include: expanded irrigation capacity; modernized water monitoring and irrigation scheduling; farm drainage systems that collect excess rain into ponds for use as a water source during dry periods; and improved soil water holding capacity and drainage. Among the greatest vulnerabilities over the next several decades for the economically important perennial fruit crop industry of the region is increased spring frost risk associated with warmer and more variable winter and spring temperatures. Improved real-time frost warning systems, careful site selection for new plantings, and use of misting, wind machine, or other frost protection measures will be important adaptation strategies. Increased weed and pest pressure associated with longer growing seasons and warmer winters is another increasingly important challenge. Pro-active development of non-chemical control strategies, improved regional monitoring, and rapid-response plans for targeted control of invasive weeds and pests will be necessary.

Last Modified: 07/22/2017
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