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Adapting Agriculture to Wetter Springs and Wetter Storms Christopher J. Anderson, PhD Assistant Director, Climate Science Program Iowa State University.

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Presentation on theme: "Adapting Agriculture to Wetter Springs and Wetter Storms Christopher J. Anderson, PhD Assistant Director, Climate Science Program Iowa State University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Adapting Agriculture to Wetter Springs and Wetter Storms Christopher J. Anderson, PhD Assistant Director, Climate Science Program Iowa State University Adapting to Climate Change: Gaining the Advantage 8 June 2012

2 Adaptation: Adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climate stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities. Climate Stimuli – A change in the climate conditions that agitates the current agricultural system. What is the climate change of interest? What is the sensitivity of agricultural systems?

3 One of the clearest trends in the United States observational record is an increasing frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation events… Over the last century there was a 50% increase in the frequency of days with precipitation over mm (four inches) in the upper midwestern U.S.; this trend is statistically significant An unequivocal statement! But… Who is informed by it? What decisions can be made based on it?

4 Spring and Summer rainfall is the moisture source for annual crops 30-yr average Iowa Spring rainfall (13.1) is highest of past 140 years. Wet springs are more frequent since 1970s. (A 1 in 20 year is now 1 in 5.)

5 Spring and Summer rainfall is the moisture source for annual crops 30-yr average Iowa Summer rainfall (8.6) is highest of past 140 years. An absence of dry summer since 1970s! (The number of 1-in-20 dry summers since 1976 is ZERO.)

6 Wetter Spring/Summer is a good thing, right? Well… A wetter spring reduces the growing season or takes land out of production. Field Work Days Iowa April-May Rainfall

7 Wetter Spring/Summer is a good thing, right? Well… A wetter summer can decimate crops at a time that replanting is impossible, impacting global market prices.

8 Wetter Spring/Summer is a good thing, right? Wetter spring/summer results in added cost to taxpayers through more crop insurance payouts.

9 Mid-21 st Century climate projections overwhelmingly have a wetter spring in Iowa.

10 Climatologists Perspective: We need to adapt! Climate Stimuli Change in spring/summer wetness and frequency of extremely wet days Responses (1)Management logistics: Shorter growing season (2)National corn yield has been reduced below expectations, sending global markets immediately upward. Future projections indicate a continuation of the current trend.

11 Iowa farmers are adapting Wetter springs: larger machinery enables planting in smaller weather windows Wetter springs and summers: more subsurface drainage tile, closer spacing, sloped surfaces Fewer extreme heat events: higher planting densities, fewer pollination failures Higher humidity: more spraying for pathogens, more problems with fall crop dry-down (seed variety selection) One thing is apparent from speaking with Farmers How do we know that this reactive adaptation is the path we want agriculture to take?

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14 Resistance-Resilience-Transformation Adaptation Framework U. S. Forest Service, 2010 Resistance Strategies Maintain the status quo over the near term through management that builds resistance to climate change Resistance Strategies Maintain the status quo over the near term through management that builds resistance to climate change Resilience Strategies Longer-term actions that build adaptive capacity by improving the systems ability to moderate effects of climate Resilience Strategies Longer-term actions that build adaptive capacity by improving the systems ability to moderate effects of climate Transformation Strategies Increase adaptive capacity by facilitating the transition to a new system with different structure and function better adapted Transformation Strategies Increase adaptive capacity by facilitating the transition to a new system with different structure and function better adapted

15 A progression of knowledge leading to adaptation planning. (1) View agriculture as a system of systems. overlapping social, economic, biophysical, and ecological processes and human decisions interacting over multiple scales of time and space. (2)Evaluate sensitivity of systems and the interaction among systems to rainfall changes in the Midwest. (3)Envision a desired or acceptable level of sensitivity. (4)Determine if the desired sensitivity requires resistance, resilience, or transformative strategies.

16 How do we learn how to adapt? Develop (1)-(4) within Known Patterns of Innovation (1)knit together existing parts, ideas, past knowledge and experiences by becoming very familiar with the regions inventory of spare parts and taking steps to reassemble them in new ways that might solve the problems (2)create dense networks of people with different perspectives, experiences, and knowledge, bringing more spare parts to the table and new configurations as to how to assemble them and allowing individuals to get smarter because they are connected to each other (3)provide an institutional environment where interaction can take place, ideas can collide, and hunches can become refined by exposure to networks (and encourage other institutions to develop similar innovation spaces). Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson (2010)

17 NOAA RISA enables transdisciplinary, multi-party discussion for use-inspired research.

18 A call to community learning (1)Spring/Summer rainfall has changed due to hydrological cycle changes. Sensitivity of agricultural production is obvious. (2)Lets take a deep breath. (3)Lets form a community of scientists (social and physical), agency representatives, agricultural producers, NGOs, agricultural membership organizations, climate information generators, and climate information providers to Assess the sensitivity of this regions ag. systems to wetter spring/summer Meet regularly and create a vision for what we want the sensitivity of agricultural systems to wetter spring/summer to be. (4)Lets use the networks of this community to create an implementable agricultural adaptation plan.


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