By Doug Finkelnburg
Let’s address the title’s second question. Wheat makes up 18% of calories consumed by humans on this earth. Historically, changes to the supply and distribution of wheat due to environmental or political factors creates economic ripple effects felt globally. A crop failure, embargo, or tariff spat in the far corners of the earth affects cash bids for wheat at Portland or Chicago. Such is the fate of internationally traded commodities and the fate of the single largest cash crop for dryland farmers in the Pacific Northwest. Wheat is integral to our local agricultural economy, is in increasing demand globally and major wheat production areas around the world could become more or less suitable for growing wheat as the climate changes.
Pacific Northwest wheat production is expected to benefit from a changing climate. Photo: Jeff Few under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
By Gabrielle Roesch-McNally
Multiple climate projections for the Pacific Northwest suggest that our region’s agriculture will be impacted as our climate continues to change. Are farmers preparing for these changes? And if not, why not? These are the questions I hoped to answer as part of my research.
Wheat and canola crops planted at the Washington State University’s Cook Agronomy Farm near Pullman, WA. Photo: Gabrielle Roesch-McNally.
By Sonia A. Hall
Irrigated pasture in Blaine County, Idaho. Water demand for irrigation is expected to start earlier in the season as the climate changes. Photo: Mark Goebel under CC BY 2.0.
Turns out that understanding how changes in climate are affecting the demand for water for irrigation in the Columbia River Basin is really important for our overall understanding of how water use and management may need to change in the future. Check out this Washington State University newsletter article on a recent study into this topic, led by AgClimate’s sometime-contributor Kirti Rajagopalan.
Rajagopalan, K., Chinnayakanahalli, K.J., Stockle, C.O., Nelson, R.L., Kruger, C.E., Brady, M.P., Malek, K., Dinesh, S.T., Barber, M.E., Hamlet, A.F. and Yorgey, G.G., 2018. Impacts of Near‐Term Climate Change on Irrigation Demands and Crop Yields in the Columbia River Basin. Water Resources Research, 54(3), pp.2152-2182. https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/2017WR020954
By Sonia A. Hall
Landscapes west and east of the 100th meridian. Left: Rangeland country in Idaho. Photo: Sonia A. Hall. Right: Soybean crops in Iowa. Photo: Parshotam Lal Tandon, under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
The contrast between the arid west—rangelands, wheat, conifer forests, irrigated agriculture—and the Midwest’s Great Plains—corn, soybean, prairies—is well known. There is a somewhat abrupt line separating arid from humid, close to the 100th meridian. That line is now shifting, as climate change affects temperatures, precipitation, and wind patterns that control that arid-to-humid line. Take a look at a recent study from Columbia University on how the line is shifting eastward from the 100th meridian. And you might want to start with the blog article “The 100th Meridian, Where the Great Plains Begin, May Be Shifting.”
Seager, R., N. Lis, J. Feldman, M. Ting, A.P. Williams, J. Nakamura, H. Liu, and N. Henderson, 2018: Whither the 100th Meridian? The Once and Future Physical and Human Geography of America’s Arid–Humid Divide. Part I: The Story So Far. Earth Interact., 22, 1–22, https://doi.org/10.1175/EI-D-17-0011.1
Seager, R., J. Feldman, N. Lis, M. Ting, A.P. Williams, J. Nakamura, H. Liu, and N. Henderson, 2018: Whither the 100th Meridian? The Once and Future Physical and Human Geography of America’s Arid–Humid Divide. Part II: The Meridian Moves East. Earth Interact., 22, 1–24, https://doi.org/10.1175/EI-D-17-0012.1
By Karen Hills
In non-irrigated areas that are too dry to support annual cropping, fallow (the practice of leaving land unplanted) preserves soil moisture for future crops. However, annual fallow combined with conventional tillage has resulted in a net decrease in soil carbon over time in our region, with negative impacts to soil health across large areas. And even when tillage is eliminated, it is very difficult to maintain soil carbon over time in a wheat-fallow system. For this reason, the impact of climate change on the frequency of fallow in crop rotations has important future implications both for soil health and for opportunities for carbon sequestration.
Two papers published last year by Kaur et al. and Karimi et al. use modeling to project the impacts of climate change on dryland cropping systems. Continue reading
By Chris Schnepf
Many countries enthusiastically plant trees that are not native to their shores. One of the best examples is New Zealand, which has extensive plantations of genetically improved Pinus radiata, a species native to northern California and known here as Monterey pine. If you noticed pine forests that humans, elves, and orcs scurried through in the Lord of the Rings movies (filmed in New Zealand), you were likely looking at planted, non-native trees. Continue reading
By Georgine Yorgey
Farmer and long-time CSANR advisory committee member, Dale Gies. Photo: Sylvia Kantor.
What are the climate impacts of a given farm practice? While we know lots of strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions on farms, quantifying that impact can be difficult. However, there is at least one farm in our region – one that uses some pretty neat practices – for which scientists have attempted to answer that question. And the farmer just happens to be a long-time member of the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources’ advisory committee, Dale Gies. Continue reading
By Karen Hills
Biochar as a soil amendment has been the subject of much attention in recent years because of its ability to sequester carbon and to improve aggregation, water holding capacity, and organic matter content of soil amended with it (Lehmann, 2007; Marris, 2006). A recent post discussed what’s needed to economically produce forest to farm biochar. In contrast, researchers at Washington State University are investigating what we could call waste to farm biochar. Waste to farm biochar, if deployed on a larger scale, could offer a two-part benefit – removal of wood from the municipal solid waste stream and creation of a valuable product from this wood. In recent work, researchers are looking at two possible wastes that could be made into biochar: wood-based fractions of municipal solid waste and the large woody material remaining after compost production—referred to as “compost overs.”
Figure 1: Images of the woody biomass sources used to create biochar for this project, including compost overs and wood-based products from municipal solid waste. (source: WTFT 2015-2017 report; photo credit: M. Ayiania)
Beginning Thursday, July 12 at 9:00 am Pacific Standard Time – and occurring weekly at that time through Tuesday, August 28 – the OneNOAA seminar series will be hosting an 8-part suite of talks on different aspects of the National Climate Assessment 4 Volume I – the Climate Science Special Report. This is a fantastic opportunity to learn about the latest climate science from some of the nation’s most eminent scientists!
- Thurs, July 12: Climate Science: What’s New? – Katharine Hayhoe (Texas Tech University)
- Thurs, July 19: Detection and Attribution of Climate Change from the CSSR – U.S. Perspective – Tom Knutson (NOAA-GFDL)
- Thurs, July 26: Droughts, Floods, and Wildfire – Michael Wehner (DOE-LBNL)
- Thurs, Aug 2: Climate Potential Surprises – Compound Extremes and Tipping Elements – Radley Horton (Columbia University / Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory)
- Thurs, Aug 9: Climate Long-Term Climate Mitigation Perspectives and the 2°C Objective – Ben DeAngelo (NOAA)
- Thurs, Aug 16: The Causes and Consequences of a Rapidly Changing Arctic – Patrick Taylor (NASA-Langley Research Center)
- Thurs, Aug 23: Climate Tidings of the Tides – Billy Sweet (NOAA)
- Tues, Aug 28: The Fourth U.S. National Climate Assessment: An Overview of Volume 1 – Don Wuebbles (University of Illinois)
by Sonia A. Hall
Yes, more on snow… because there’s less snow. Read Nathan Gilles’s article in the Climate CIRCulator, that discusses research that found that mountains in the western United States have seen snowpack decreasing by an amount similar to the size of Lake Mead over the last 60 years.