How Climate Change is Affecting Farming

While people disagree on the severity (and to a degree, the causes), our world’s environment has been changing. Some areas are experiencing droughts and water shortages. Others are experiencing record rainfalls and flooding. 

The average temperatures around the world are slowly rising as the air’s carbon dioxide levels are higher than ever. We’ve seen abnormally long summers. Unseasonably warm falls. And while some of these events might not sound so bad, they’re starting to have consequences. 

Particularly with agriculture. 

Farming works off of seasons and cycles. When those are disrupted, overall output can suffer. A USDA study shows that climate change will likely result in lower crop yields, harm milk production, and reduce nutrient density in crops such as wheat and rice. 

How exactly is a changing climate impacting the agricultural industry? Let’s take a closer look. 

Irregular RainHigh Temperatures, and Long Seasons 

The presence of drought has been up and down in recent years. In 2018, many areas saw very high drought levels. A year later, droughts were at a record low. In place of drought, however, flooding ravaged the Midwest. 

Both of these extremes are hard on soil and crops. Dry soil is vulnerable to wind. Combined with high temperatures, it decomposes faster, losing its vital nutrients. When rainfall is in excess, runoff and erosion occur, taking away precious topsoil. 

Increased heat can also lead to heat stress in livestock. This leaves them vulnerable to disease while reducing fertility and milk production. 

Meanwhile, longer seasons are resulting in an increase in pest populations. With more breeding cycles taking place, harmful insects are seeing their number grow. These unusually high numbers pose a serious threat to crops. 

Damage to Pollinators 

Pollinators serve a vital function in our agricultural community, accounting for $15 billion of US farm business. Alarmingly, many key pollinators have been disappearing in mass quantities. 

Honeybees, the predominate pollinator in the US, is being ravaged by colony collapse disorder, which is believed to be caused in part by climate change. Meanwhile, unusual weather patterns and warm falls are causing confusion among monarch butterflies. This results in them waiting too long to migrate south. 

When a sudden winter storm hits, any lingering monarchs are wiped out. Between 1994 and 2016, the monarch butterfly saw a decrease of 80% in their population. They are currently on the verge of being placed on the endangered species list. 

It’s Time to Adapt 

While it’s impossible to predict how much things will change in the decades to come, it’s best to adapt early and prepare for the worst. One way to do this is with the establishment of native vegetation such as native grasses and forbs or pollinator habitat. 

Through the Conservation Reserve Program, farmers and landowners can receive rental payments and cost-share reimbursement in exchange for taking underperforming land out of active production and establishing native CRP seed mixes. 

Next week, we’ll be discussing how CRP can protect farmers from changing climate conditions while also helping to reverse these conditions in the first place. Until then, if you’re considering enrolling in CRP, contact FDCE today.

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