Category Archives: Impacts & Adaptation

Global agricultural regions to keep your eye on in the future

By: Sonia A. Hall

Over 30% of wheat is grown in temperate drylands globally, which are expected to see a 41% increase in suitability for rainfed agriculture. Photo credit: Flickr user Sparky, under CC BY-NC 2.0.

One challenge I struggle with when sharing research focused at global scales is how to tease out answers to questions that are meaningful in the region and at the scale I work in. My approach is to focus on how the big picture results sketch out, and think about what it all means (even when the specifics are not exactly right, which they rarely are). Hopefully I’ll be successful in this article about a paper I co-authored, on agriculture in temperate drylands (I define these below) at a global scale. Led by Dr. John Bradford at the U.S. Geological Survey, we looked at temperate drylands across the world, and explored how rainfed (non-irrigated) agricultural areas could shift as the climate changes. Read on, and see if I convince you that wheat growers in the Pacific Northwest should care about these results.   Continue reading

Diversification where it isn’t easy: Beyond the grain-fallow rotation

By Karen Hills

Diversifying crop rotations is a key strategy used to break pest and disease cycles and improve yields. But in the driest areas of the Pacific Northwest the low precipitation amounts limit the diversification strategies that are feasible. These areas have some of the least diverse cropping systems in the region, often with winter wheat as the only crop. In areas receiving less than 16 inches of precipitation a year, that are generally too dry to support annual cropping, producers rely on summer fallow to retain winter precipitation in the soil profile. Areas where over 40% of the land a given year is fallowed are classified as grain-fallow cropping systems. From 2007 to 2014, only 4.3% of these areas, on average, were planted to another crop besides winter wheat (Kirby et al. 2017). What opportunities exist for diversifying crop rotations in these low diversity areas? In my work compiling the recently published Advances in Dryland Farming in the Inland Pacific Northwest, I learned one answer to this question: winter peas. Continue reading

National Climate Assessment Draft Report Open for Public Comment

Public Comment Period for National Climate Assessment

The National Climate Assessment is a U.S. government interagency report that summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future. These reports are extensively reviewed by the public and experts, including federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences.  The draft report has been completed, and is now available for public comment.

You can review and comment by visiting review.globalchange.gov before Jan 31!  Here’s the associated Federal Register Notice.

A series of webinars will be held to familiarize folks with the NCA and the Review & Comment website, we’re hosting a series of webinars including:

  • Wednesday, Dec 6, 5pm EST
  • Tuesday, Jan 16, 8pm EST

Webinar link: https://icf.globalmeet.com/NCAProjectWebinar
Call-in: (605) 475-5606
Passcode: 9663019548#

Building momentum for tackling climate change in the Northwest

By: Gabrielle Roesch McNally

Eagle Creek Fire: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Curtis Perry

2017 has certainly been a year of extremes, from record breaking rain and snow events to a long and dry summer across much of the Northwest. Dry and hot summer conditions were accentuated by massive forest fires across the West, many that impacted urban areas in ways not recently experienced  (e.g., Eagle Creek Fire outside Portland, OR), costing the country over $2 billion in suppression costs this year alone. Add in the catastrophic impacts of Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria and you know how much extreme weather is on everyone’s minds. Continue reading

Webinar Series: Advances in Dryland Farming in the Inland Pacific Northwest

 

In this series of webinars, scientists present timely information aimed at helping farmers and agricultural professionals interpret the results of recent research on dryland cereal systems in our region. This webinar series stems from the new book Advances in Dryland Farming in the Inland Pacific Northwest, a publication of the six-year Regional Approaches to Climate Change (REACCH; www.reacchpna.org) project, aimed at increasing the sustainability of dryland farming. All times listed are PST.

Webinars are free and no pre-registration is required. Each webinar will be 1 hour long, including Q & A session. Continue reading

Impacts and tools for dryland farmers adapting to climate change

By Liz Allen

As climate and agriculture researchers we’re constantly learning from farmers who we interact with. Our conversations with dryland wheat producers in the inland Pacific Northwest have shown us that many farmers are very skilled at managing for multiple risks at once and making decisions under various kinds of uncertainty. Climate models project substantial warming by mid-century (Figure 1) as well as more frequent storm events and more extreme minimum and maximum temperatures in the future. At the same time, a higher concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere may contribute to more rapid crop growth.  As more detailed and sophisticated models of climate change and crop dynamics are developed, it is increasingly clear that managing under observed and projected climate change impacts will require new perspectives for farmers and other agriculture sector decision makers. Those involved in agriculture will need to develop their understanding of climate-related hazards and poise themselves to take advantage of emerging opportunities linked to a changing climate.

Figure 1. Cumulative growing degree days (base 32°F) 1971–2000 (left) and 2040–2069 represen¬tative concentration pathway (RCP) 8.5 (right), projections obtained from the AgClimate atlas. See the Climate Considerations chapter in Advances in Dryland Farming in the Inland Pacific Northwest for more information on how to interpret projections like this. (Source: Kruger et al. 2017)

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Idaho Master Forest Stewards Discuss Climate Change

By Chris Schnepf

Family forest owners make up a very large percentage of forested lands in many Northwest counties. (Photo – C. Schnepf)

Extension programs and other adult education efforts are almost always stronger when learners are actively driving program development. Learner enfranchisement is especially critical on topics such as climate change, which may be seen as controversial.

The University of Idaho has a master volunteer program titled the Idaho Master Forest Stewards (IMFS) which is based on a Participatory Action Research framework, a strand of qualitative research that emphasizes participants as partners in research and extension efforts. In 2008, a steering committee composed of family forest owners spent two one-day retreats to provide the initial guidance to the program, which continues to be led by Idaho Master Forest Stewards, with assistance from UI Extension and other agencies, with the ultimate goal of improving Idaho family forests’ health and growth. Continue reading

A role for agricultural landscapes in conserving wildlife – Part 2

By: Andrew Shirk, Climate Impacts Group, University of Washington &
Sonia A. Hall, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University

Male Greater Sage-Grouse performing its mating display in a field
in Douglas County, Washington. Photo courtesy of Michael Schroeder.

Fields enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) have augmented native habitat and helped Greater Sage-Grouse avoid extinction in the agricultural landscape of eastern Washington after decades of decline (see part 1 of this series for details). Even though the local sage-grouse population has stabilized in recent decades, it remains highly vulnerable because it is still small and isolated from other populations. As we enter an era of rapid climate change, the right conditions for sage-grouse habitat may shift away from currently occupied areas, requiring populations to move and colonize new areas over a short period of time. And they must do so across a landscape that is now replete with major highways, urban areas, and other barriers to movement. And even if wildlife can cross these barriers, the area of suitable, available habitat may shrink under the future climate. Continue reading

Including climate in your reforestation decision making

By: Holly R. Prendeville, Coordinator for the USDA Northwest Climate Hub

Tree mortality due to flathead woodborer in southwest Oregon, photo take in June 2016. Photo by Bob Schroeter of the USFS

Weather in the Northwest has gotten more variable. We have recently experienced drought for two years followed by flooding in 2017. The 2015 drought coincides with future climate projections for the Northwest: warmer temperatures leading to lower and earlier melting of snowpacks. Though trees are locally adapted to climate and can tolerate moderate changes, rapid and large changes in climate may be beyond the capacity of some species. As we saw in 2015, longer and drier growing seasons affect tree regeneration, growth, and mortality. This poses challenges for foresters, which Chris Schnepf discussed in a recent article.

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When you get into specifics, there can be good news about climate change

By: Doug Finkelnburg

“This is the first good news I’ve heard about climate change” was among the feedback received after delivering a talk about changes expected for Pacific Northwest’s agriculture. The audience was primarily ranchers attending the Northwest Grazing Conference in Pendleton, Oregon this past May. Scheduling conflicts prevented the talk’s author, Chad Kruger, director of the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources from attending, and with some trepidation I agreed to present the topic on his behalf.

For many Americans, climate change is at best an abstract challenge, seemingly serious but without immediately obvious specific threats to one’s life and business. To the skeptic, it is a political football and a dark conspiracy, some nefarious excuse dreamed up to gain economic and political advantage for one interest group over another. With this in mind I attempted to summarize and translate the results of Northwest-focused climate research to an audience I expected viewed the topic at large with some level of hostility.

Wheat production in the Northwest, where the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide and shifts in precipitation cycles are expected to deliver a “boost” to productivity of forages and small grains. Photo: Dennis Behm, under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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