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How Climate Change And Other Factors Affect Agriculture

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Living things need a lot of particulars to be controlled in order to grow and survive. Certain factors are out of the hands of those in the industry of nurturing said living things for food, like farmers, and it’s important to know those variables and be able to prepare for the worst. After all, that’s what our food supply depends on.
Climate and temperature are large factors, according to a paper by Jerry Hatfield. The paper reports that actual yield is 15-20% less than potential yield due to short term stresses such as temperature not being optimal and water levels in the soil being inadequate for the crops. It is possible that a year may pass where the yield is unaffected by temperature, but it is extremely improbable.

The paper also states that climate change is affecting crops in the Midwest. An example of this, albeit an indirect one, is an increase in weeds, bugs, and diseases that can harm crops or make them less suitable to be eaten. An increase in carbon dioxide due to climate change can make weeds more competitive against other crops and can lead to problems for farms with less weed control.
In addition, Hatfield predicts an increase in natural extremes in upcoming years. These extremes will lead to a variance in the yield of crops and possibly livestock, depending on the issue. Even a small, short term issue such as a shortage of water not even short enough to be called a drought can have a negative affect on crops. Seeing as such an event can be hard to foresee even with weather forecasts, this can cause a huge problem for farmers who aren’t prepared.

One of the most important points the paper makes is that climate change is already affecting Russia and could affect the Midwest by the end of the century. This climate change would definitely impact crops, because like any living thing crops are sensitive to changes in the outside world. Many crops have an optimal temperature range that, when exceeded, causes the plants to not fare as well.

Jerry Hatfield and Gene Takles also wrote a paper on agriculture and climate change. This paper asserts that while temperature is an important factor in growing crops, availability of soil water is even more critical. However, the paper goes to show that many crops in California are projected to decline in yield in upcoming years due to climate change. Such crops include tomatoes, cotton, sunflowers, and wheat. The paper also addresses that nightly temperatures have been increasing. In 2010 and 2012 nighttime temperatures increased to a point of being detrimental to crops. This increase affected the crops by reducing the yield and quality of the crops. The paper states that erosion is increasing. Rainfall’s erosive power will only grow as tied to the amount of rainfall increasing. The intensity of the rainfall is also expected to increase, leading to further erosion. Even the soil farmers grow their crops in is subject to climate change. While any fluctuations in precipitation will increase the potential amount of water that the soil can absorb, other factors come into play for the actual amount of water absorbed. However, climate change will affect soil by changing the levels of carbon in the soil and creating more soil loss. Factors that can be affected by climate change such as soil temperature and availability of water are factors that can affect carbon levels and soil loss.

The authors of this paper believe that genetic engineering and selective breeding could be key in fighting the effects of climate change on both crops and livestock. However, engineering for perennial plants can take at least 15 years and might even take up to 30, so it may be difficult to get the right adaptation implemented at the right time before it becomes unnecessary.
Another paper by Sara C. Pryor and Donald Scavia describes climate change in the Midwest. Since 1950 it has extended the growing season by almost two weeks, which has had different effects depending on the crop. For example, corn has experienced a shorter timespan for reproductive growth. This has lead to a decrease in the yield of the crop. Soybeans have not been so negatively affected, and may even have a more positive outcome due to increases in carbon dioxide previously mentioned. However, one part of the season beginning earlier that can negatively affect all plants is the greater likelihood of freezing temperatures that can absolutely destroy crops that bud too soon. If crops start to grow earlier in the spring, then chances of a freeze event later in the spring increases. These low temperatures after the season has started have already harmed Michigan cherry crops in 2002 and 2012, and these events are predicted to continue with some sort regularity in years to come.

Another problem the paper addresses as being the effect of climate change is an increase in rainfall and flooding. As the temperatures rise, water evaporates at a higher rate, creating more clouds and therefore more rain. This increase in rain and flooding can be detrimental because floods can drown crops and grass, leaving livestock with nothing to eat. In the last century, there has been an increase in precipitation in the Midwest that is up to 20% in some areas. Flooding is an especially big problem for farmers. In Midwest floods during 2008, $15 billion was lost from the potential yield. However, worries of flooding shouldn’t go away quickly. The paper predicts that such floods will only become more common in years to come.
Too much water is an issue, but so is too little. In the last century, there has been no change in average drought duration, but it is predicted that there will be more consecutive days without rain in the future. That could increase the length of droughts and leave crops too wilted to sell and livestock too parched to live long enough to be of much use.
While a professional viewpoint is important no matter the subject, it’s also valuable to see the information someone in the business has to offer. As in my last article, I interviewed Damian Auffert, a fourth generation farmer living in Parnell, Missouri to see what he had to say.

For my first question, I asked if he had noticed any signs of climate change himself in his crops and livestock. He answered that he had not observed any signs. He also said that he and many other farmers believe in ten year cycles of weather that even out the fluctuations in weather. However, there are many other factors that can affect agriculture besides climate change. For my next question, I inquired after other factors that affect agriculture and how they can be monitored. First he told me about how important weather is. Here it can be seen that agriculture is a tricky business. It could rain too much or rain too little or just rain at a bad time. Sunlight was also a huge factor of weather, as crops and grass need it to carry out photosynthesis in order to grow. Livestock needs the crops and grass to eat and also needs to be warmed by the Sun on cold days.

Another variable that requires monitoring is the time of planting for crops. If the soil is too wet, the plant’s growth will be stunted and grow incorrectly. However, if the soil is too dry, the crops won’t have enough moisture to finish growing. Cold temperatures can actually be good for crops, as they help break up the compaction that last year’s farming brought on, so it’s important for those cold temperatures to fully break up compaction before planting. Damien also said that there were many variables for livestock. For example, the same cold temperatures that can help crops can also mean more money must be spent on livestock. The animals need to eat more in order to maintain a healthy body temperature. There are also many different breeds of cattle, and the breed affects what the cow is used for. A farmer must keep track of the breed in order to use the cattle the best way possible.
One of the largest issues facing farmers today is the endangered nature of bees. Without bees, nothing gets pollinated and crops can no longer reproduce. Damien said he solves this problem by keeping around 60 hives on his farm. However, it’s still important to farmers that bees be removed from that endangered species list so they can continue to pollinate their crops.
The last issue Damien addressed was weeds. Weeds can be stopped by cultivating the soil or using chemicals. Cultivating the soil just helps more weeds to grow and that on top of the weed problem increasing according to an earlier article makes chemicals the better solution. Damien says chemicals are much safer now than they were in times past and have become crucial to the business of agriculture.

All of these issues that farmers face are crucial even to those not in the industry because these are the issues that affect our food supply. Some of the factors that affect food supply cannot be changed, but some can. Climate change and the looming possibility of an extinction of bees are problems that can be affected by mankind. In order to help our farmers, we may need to fix these issues soon or our food supply will suffer.

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How Climate Change And Other Factors Affect Agriculture