Latest Climate Change Assessment Illustrates Farming Challenges of the Future

Brian German Agri-Business

The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) recently released an updated climate change assessment detailing the expectations of future climate conditions in California.  The report, California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment, revises some of the information that was presented in the last report that was written in 2012.  Along with predicting a 77 percent increase in the amount of acreage that will be burned by wildfires, along with a 50 percent increase in the overall number of wildfires by 2100, the report presents information on the effects of climate change on agricultural production.

Climate Change AssessmentThe information most relevant for farming is the predicted increase in drought periods, more frequent extreme heat events and an increased demand for energy if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.  The report focuses on Central Valley crops, the dairy industry, as well as the beef cattle grazing industry.  By demonstrating the challenges facing California agriculture, the hope is to identify ways to adapt and overcome those issues.

Some of the highlights of the report include the confirmation of some of the previous findings related to crop adaptation to various climate change scenarios.  Adapting crops and production methods can help address climate change issues.  Specialty crops were also shown to be more successful over feed, field and grain crops in the modeling results.

Dairies are expected to endure challenges in obtaining forage because of increased competition for water supplies between different commodities and lower returns on hay and corn silage in relation to water usage.  Reducing milking herd sizes along with finding alternative feed sources may help overcome those challenges.

Water shortage scenarios are expected to have a negative impact on irrigated areas, cropping patterns and overall gross revenues.  The report highlights the importance of protecting groundwater reserves in order to avoid large economic losses in the agriculture sector.  A decline in irrigated pasture availability will also present challenges for expanding the beef cattle industry.

The climate change assessment is comprised of research taken from 44 technical reports, as well as 11 summary reports from CNRA.


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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West