Climate change challenges force farmers to make difficult choicesJuly 16, 2020
Some producers will be forced to choose between revenue instability or low yields.
Farmers will be facing new climate change challenges in coming growing seasons, according to a collaborative study between Cornell University and Washington State University.
They found that the impact of a warming planet will force producers to make some tough choices.
The study results showed that farmers will often need to make a decision between facing reduced revenue instability or lower yields due to climate change challenges. Clearly, this will be a very difficult choice for farmers to have to make. Choosing between predictable but reduced crop yields or taking on the risk of revenue volatility can make for greatly increased stress.
As higher temperatures, water shortages and more frequent severe storms cut into crop yields across many regions, crop yields fall. The same can be said for areas that rely heavily on seasonal snow that is not falling in traditional patterns. Farmers are finding themselves turning to more drought-tolerant varieties of plans, but these pivots come with a high price tag. This, according to the model projections described in the “Water Rights Shape Crop Yield and Revenue Volatility Tradeoff for Adaptation in Snow Dependent Systems” paper.
The researchers examined the climate change challenges from the Yakima River Basin in Washington.
The Yakima River Bason was selected for study due to the complexity of the impact of water factors such as reservoirs, snow, and rights decides the availability of water for irrigating fields. That access to water therefore determines whether many of the largest corn, wheat, potato, apple, grape, cherry, hops and pear producers in the United States will see successful yields. When snowfall and melt are adequate, the entire basin’s annual productivity can be greater than $4 billion.
The researchers were aiming to measure the direct and indirect impacts of climate change on the basin’s irrigated agriculture. They were also seeking to find out if drought-resistant crop varieties would offer a viable route for productivity recovery during times of water shortage.
What they found was that, as anticipated, higher temperatures and lower water availability brought about reduced crop yields and that climate change challenges would lead to difficult decisions for farmers, said the lead author of the study, postdoctoral researcher Keyvan Malek.