By Morgan Lawrence, USDA Northwest Climate Hub
Crops can be grown beneath solar panels to reduce their exposure to the sun and protect from extreme heat. Photo: Oregon State University NEWAg Lab
Climate change has caused unprecedented warming, varying precipitation patterns, and higher risks of drought and wildfires across the Northwest. These impacts threaten agriculture, natural resources, and human health in the region. Transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable forms of energy can reduce carbon emissions and slow the effects of climate change. However, renewable energy often requires large tracts of land—a requirement that can conflict with agricultural land requirements. Agrivoltaics could present a solution. Continue reading
By Morgan Lawrence, USDA Northwest Climate Hub
Cattle grazing at sunset on public rangeland in Malheur County, Oregon, with the east side of Steens Mountain visible in the distance. Credit: Greg Shine, BLM.
Wildfires in the Great Basin are bigger and badder than ever. In fact, the 12 largest fires on record in the region have all burned in the last two decades, and more acres of rangeland burn annually than forest in the U.S. Rising temperatures and changes in precipitation caused by climate change have pushed the region into a new era of megafires—fires that burn 100,000 acres or more. Wildfires in the Great Basin often occur in quick-burning fuels, such as grasses and sagebrush, that allow fires to grow rapidly, threatening communities, wildlife, and industry. Fuel breaks (strips or blocks of reduced or removed vegetation) can slow the spread of wildfire and provide a safer space for firefighters to work. Fuel breaks can be implemented with prescribed burns or mechanical treatments like mowing or dozing. However, some of these methods can be expensive, difficult to maintain, and fossil-fuel intensive. To keep pace with megafires, rangeland and fire managers need sustainable management practices that can protect property, wildlife habitat, and resources.
Targeted cattle grazing could be an effective addition to the fire mitigation toolbox in the Great Basin. Continue reading
By Karie Boone, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University
Washington State 1917 Water Code declaring state waters as a public resource to be used by residents through water right acquisition.
Source: Washington State Legislature.
WSU researchers are examining water markets and barriers to their adoption as a potential strategy to adapt to climate changes. Those implementing water markets must navigate legal and administrative complexities, a big one being the need to treat water resources as both a public resource and a private property. The State of Washington holds water as a natural resource in trust for its residents, the public. Individuals or entities can then use water by securing a water right, or the right to divert a specified amount of water at a particular site and for a defined use (for example, municipal, irrigation, flows for fish, industrial). A water right is authorization to use water in a prescribed manner, not to own the water itself.
These complexities understandably lead to complicated and conflicting views about how water should and should not be transferred through water markets. Indeed, when irrigators in the Okanogan, Methow, Walla Walla and Yakima river basins in Washington State were asked two questions (via the 2021 Water Management Survey) to gauge how they thought about the balance between water rights as private property and water as a public natural resource, responses were split, and in some cases even contradictory. Continue reading
By David I. Gustafson, Adjunct Research Faculty at Washington State University
This article is part of a series, Climate Friendly Fruit & Veggies, highlighting work from the Fruit & Vegetable Supply Chains: Climate Adaptation & Mitigation Opportunities (F&V CAMO) project, a collaborative research study co-led by investigators at the University of Florida and the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute. Other collaborators include researchers at the University of Arkansas, University of Illinois, the International Food Policy Research Institute, the World Agricultural Economic and Environmental Services, and Washington State University. This project seeks to identify and test climate adaptation and mitigation strategies in fruit and vegetable supply chains.
A new integrated approach makes it possible to explore options for enhancing the resilience of future supply chains for popular U.S. foods, such as French fries and pasta sauce.
Photo: David I Gustafson.
It’s been a long, hot, dry, fiery, smoky summer in much of the American West. That’s where the U.S. gets most of its fruits and vegetables, including two widely-consumed processed products that some might not immediately associate with this category: French fries and pasta sauce. Most of those fries start as potatoes grown in the arid inland parts of the Columbia River Basin, and nearly all of that red sauce starts as tomatoes grown in the currently parched Central Valley of California. Given how hot and dry it has been this year, you might wonder how supplies of popular foods such as these are going to fare in the future, as climate change continues to increase the odds of even hotter growing conditions and impacts availability of water for irrigation.
In previous articles we reported on the remarkable resilience we found in these supply chains, a surprising opportunity for certain food preparation methods to significantly reduce carbon footprints, and the massive role that consumer waste plays in their overall environmental impact. Now our research team has published a new study in Nature Food where we examined the supply chains for French fries and pasta sauce in great detail, using a unique, integrated approach that we developed for exploring climate adaptation and mitigation opportunities in fruit and vegetable supply chains. Continue reading
By Avery Lavoie, Fellow at Oakridge Institute for Science and Education, Environmental Protection Agency, and recent University of Idaho graduate.
Cover crops could be one way to help dryland crop producers adapt to climate change by reducing soil erosion, improving soil fertility, and improving moisture holding capacity. Demonstration field trip in Okanogan, WA. Photo: Avery Lavoie.
Across the nation, there is an increased interest in cover crops: those planted during the fallow period or in place of a cash crop to improve soil and water quality and mitigate the impacts of climate change. In the inland Pacific Northwest, dryland crop producers may experience an increase in spring precipitation by 5-15% over the next 40-70 years (Painter, Borrelli, and Steury 2014), warmer temperatures, and drier summers. Although not widely used, cover crops could be one way to help dryland crop producers adapt to climate change by reducing soil erosion and improving moisture holding capacity, as well as improving soil fertility.
Researchers, extension agents, and conservation agencies are collaborating with crop and livestock producers to determine what will best support their livelihoods and sustain the soil and land for future generations (See REACCH and LIT Projects). But will this work address the challenges that are keeping producers from adopting adaptive practices like cover crops? Dr. Chloe Wardropper and I were interested in hearing directly from crop and livestock producers about their perspectives on those challenges and the potential opportunities for increasing cover crop adoption. Continue reading
By Nicole Bell, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University
This article is part of a series, Climate Friendly Fruit & Veggies (see sidebar), highlighting work from the Fruit & Vegetable Supply Chains: Climate Adaptation & Mitigation Opportunities (F&V CAMO) project, a collaborative research study co-led by investigators at the University of Florida and the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute. Other collaborators include researchers at the University of Arkansas, University of Illinois, the International Food Policy Research Institute, the World Agricultural Economic and Environmental Services, and Washington State University. This project seeks to identify and test climate adaptation and mitigation strategies in fruit and vegetable supply chains.
The way food is prepared presents a significant opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Photos: Chris Campbell under CC BY-NC 2.0 (top); Flickr user Joy under CC BY 2.0.
Efforts to quantify the carbon footprint of agriculture are often focused on the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from on-farm activities, mostly from fertilizer production and the energy required for use of farm implements. While you, as a climate change-conscious consumer, may place your attention on the environmental impact of your food before it arrives in your grocery bag, a recent study published in the Science of the Total Environment examined the relative impact of different parts of the supply chain (on-farm, processor, retail, and consumer) for potato and tomato products, both fresh and processed. Study authors from the University of Arkansas, led by Ranjan Parajuli, assert that the way food is prepared presents a significant opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If the goal is to reduce the overall environmental foodprint, changing the way potatoes are cooked may make more of a difference than how the potatoes themselves were grown. Continue reading
By Sonia A. Hall
The conditions the Northwest experienced in 2015 have received a lot of attention, because we saw drought even though precipitation was close to normal. So the drought was due to higher temperatures, which meant snow didn’t accumulate anywhere near as much as it does on average. With less water available for irrigation in summer (see our earlier articles on the 2015 drought here and here), we’d expected irrigated crops to suffer, and we’d also expect growers’ bottom line to suffer.
Drought (and other stresses) can have a significant impact on crop production—see this comparison of the size of an ear of corn in Missouri during the 2012 drought to its “normal” size (space between hands). The expectation is that decreases in production will lead to drops in revenue, but is that always the case? Photo: Malory Ensor/KOMU News under CC BY 2.0
But when the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Annual Statistical Bulletin for Washington State came out in October 2016, it was followed by an article in Capital Press discussing the apparent paradox that agricultural production values hit record highs in 2015, even though the region was under that newsworthy “snow drought.” Continue reading
Happy Holidays from the AgClimate.net team! Catch up on all our posts from 2016 and join us again for an exciting new year in 2017! Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter.
Best Wishes from all of us!!
Happy Holidays from the AgClimate.net team! Catch up on all our posts from 2015 and join us again for an exciting new year in 2016! Best Wishes from all of us!!