A recent study that was published by researchers from the University of California, Irvine among other institutions, found that California’s strict air quality regulations have provided benefits for the state’s agriculture industry. The report published in Nature Food shows that reductions in pollution over the past 35 years resulted in more profitable crops for California growers.
The researchers analyzed yield data and pollution exposure for perennial crops such as fruits and nuts between 1980 and 2015. The analysis incorporated yield information for several commodities that account for approximately 38 percent of the economic value of California agriculture. The report notes that “historical improvements in California’s air quality that reduced ozone exposures may have had large, unaccounted co-benefits for the state’s perennial crop yields, and further pollution reduction could create additional gains.”
Emissions from transportation and energy production along with rising temperatures were found to have a wide range of effects on crop production. Ambient ozone and the effects of climate change can negatively impact table grape productivity by as much as 22 percent, while strawberry productivity was only reduced by two percent. Freestone peaches, walnuts, raisin grapes, nectarines, almonds, and hay were also shown to have a decrease in productivity relative to ambient ozone exposure.
Although many California farmers may not appreciate some of the air quality regulations and what they require, the statistical analysis indicates that improving air quality has agricultural benefits. Projecting the impact of future exposure and the impact of ozone pollution will be an area of emphasis for continuing research. “The combined historical and future effects of ozone and climate trends on the yields of different perennial crops in California are not well understood. More in-depth research in this direction is essential to identify key vulnerabilities and to prioritize adaptation strategies,” the study notes.