Three ways a changing climate benefits crop production

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Climate change has cascading effects on many areas of life, many of them negative. However, a changing climate provide some upside potential for crop production.

Jeffrey Schussler, an Iowa-based ag technology and research consultant with Schussler Ag Solutions, presented this week at the Ontario Agricultural Conference on how climate change has benefitted agriculture, how genetics and new technologies allow agriculture to mitigate challenges, and how farming practices are changing to reflect climate change.

Schussler says an increase in solar energy because of a changing climate is pushing up yield potential. The amount of solar energy hitting North America has increased twenty five percent in the last forty years, he says, and that means more food-production potential per plant.

That increased solar energy has also extended the frost-free season, Schussler says. For some areas, the average frost-free period has increased ten days and up to two week — and that’s in the last 40 to 50 years. A longer season allows growers to choose varieties with longer maturities, usually with corresponding increased yield potential.

Temperatures have changed too, but not necessarily in the day time. Schussler says data throughout North America shows an increase in the average nighttime temperature and that the daytime high has actually decreased by a few degrees in areas where crops are grown. Schussler says water vapour released from plants during the peak daytime temperature actually keeps the average temperature down.

All that said, climate change has also increased risk of severe weather events, including droughts. Schussler says that research advances are working to introduce new hybrids and varieties that offer yield stability in drought periods. For example, Schussler has worked with wheat that matures at a shorter height, requiring less water and nutrients to develop to maturity.

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