Farm adaptation: grower programs and resources

A variety of programs and informational resources are available to inform your farm adaptation plan.  NEWA provides real time forecasting tools for insect and disease pests. The Cornell Smart Farming Program provides tools for growers to address longer term climate concerns. The Animal Agriculture in a Changing Climate project provides a specialized set of tools for livestock producers. A number of reports have also been published recently that have information useful to the agricultural community.

Program Description
Network for Environment and Weather Applications (New York State Integrated Pest Management Program) NEWA delivers weather information and apps based on the weather collected that support and advance integrated pest management (IPM) and best management practices for agricultural and green industries. Our vision is that NEWA will become the source for weather-related information for the IPM practitioner in the Northeast
Cornell Smart Farming Program (Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions) The Cornell Climate Smart Farming program is a voluntary initiative that helps farmers in New York and the northeastern US to increase productivity in a sustainable way, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production, and increase farm resiliency to extreme weather and climate variability.
Animal Agriculture in a Changing Climate (Cornell University Dairy Environmental Systems Program) Animal Agriculture in a Changing Climate fosters animal production practices that are environmentally sound and economically viable, and that create resiliency for animal producers and their partners.
United States Department of Agriculture Northeast Climate Hub The Northeast Climate Hub, building on capacity within USDA, delivers science-based knowledge and practical information to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and D.C
CLN eLearning  (Southern Regional Extension Forestry) CLN eLearning is designed to help Extension Professionals, Professional Crop Advisors and Professional Foresters incorporate climate change into their existing program areas and become Climate Literate. Many of our modules offer Continuing Education Credits from SAF and CCA.
Report  Description
 2014 USDA Climate Change Adaptation Plan  (USDA Office of the Chief Economist)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Climate Change Adaptation Plan presents strategies and actions to address the effects of climate change on key mission areas including agricultural production, food security, rural development, and forestry and natural resources conservation.

The 2014 USDA Climate Change Adaptation Plan includes input from eleven USDA agencies and offices.  It provides a detailed vulnerability assessment, reviews the elements of USDA’s mission that are at risk from climate change, and provides specific actions and steps being taken to build resilience to climate change.

National Climate Assessment: Agriculture (U.S. Global Change Research Program) The full report of the National Climate Assessment provides an in-depth look at climate change impacts on the U.S. and explores the impacts to agriculture.
Climate Impacts on Agriculture and Food  (United States Environmental Protection Agency) Agriculture is an important sector of the U.S. economy. The crops, livestock, and seafood produced  in the United States contribute more than $300 billion to the economy each year. When food-service and other agriculture-related industries are included, the agricultural and food sectors contribute more than $750 billion to the gross domestic product

Read part 1 and part 2 of this series.

Farm adaptation: on-farm planning strategies

In part one, we discussed the reality of farming in the future and the importance of understanding that unpredictability is going to be the only predictable thing moving forward. Success, however, doesn’t have to be an elusive goal even when extreme weather and climate shift pose significant challenges. Your ability to adopt specific strategies and innovative approaches depends on available time and resources, but some broad strategies have already been identified and shown to have success.

  1. Alter system inputs. Choose crop varieties or species that possess qualities that align with your farm climate, such as drought or heat shock tolerance.  Choose a shorter or longer developing variety.  Adjust fertilizer rates to maintain crop quality. Cornell’s Adapt-N program is a very useful tool for this.
  2. Develop a water budget. Experiment with ways to save water when abundant and efficiently move it to areas of need when there is a deficit.  Understand your water needs throughout the season by looking at precipitation in recent years. NEWA’s apple irrigation tool is also useful for managing water use in orchards through the growing season.
  3. Plan for extremes. Manage extreme weather events to your advantage. Study weather patterns and trends in recent years. Assume they will become the norm and experiment with ways to save that water for later use and at the same time reduce erosion, reduce water-logged soil and prevent nutrient leaching. NEWA provides insect and disease forecasts to help inform management decisions from day to day in this respect.
  4. Minimize risk. Spread your investments over different income streams.
  5. Utilize IPM. Look for ways to incorporate, improve or refine integrated pest management practices to mitigate the impact of insects, disease and weeds on your bottom line. NEWA is a great resource for maximizing your IPM strategies in this respect.
  6. Utilize climate data. Understand weather trends in recent years and the possibility of things to come in the near future. Cornell Climate Smart Farming Tools and the Northeast Regional Climate Center can provide information for make longer term on-farm management decisions.

To learn more about these farm adaptation strategies, read this open-access PDF article.

Read part 1 and part 3 of this series.


Farm adaptation: predicting the unpredictable

In 2013, USDA ARS reported that climate change and extreme weather will have significant long lasting effects on all aspects of agricultural production in the United States. You’ve likely already experienced the sour taste of what is now becoming the norm.  Extreme weather, unpredictable rainfall, higher temperatures and other factors that keep you awake at night will be a regular part of the dialogue when it comes to farm management planning in the short and long term.

There is a growing consensus, however, that the way you approach these challenges will make all the difference.  Reacting to each situation is not likely to provide long-term stability for your farm.  In contrast, a proactive approach that anticipates climate and weather variability, informed by personal knowledge of local short-term climate patterns, is more likely to result in future scenarios that have positive and productive outcomes for you. This is also why NEWA is becoming an increasingly important resource – it provides real-time short term forecasting tools needed to make well informed decisions.

Here are some important weather and climate facts that NEWA helps address.

  1. Globally, average temperature will rise by 0.18°F (0.1°C) per decade during our lifetime. This doesn’t seem like much right? But remember this is an average. The way this really looks on your farm is bigger and more extreme temperatures in both directions throughout the year and more extreme weather.
  2. Even predictable increases in temperature over time can have disproportionately negative impacts on current agricultural practices if adaptive plans are not made. If you do not have a plan to be flexible in adverse growing conditions, the long-term outlook is less certain.
  3. On the positive side, climate change will create opportunities for innovation and investment in agriculture. A grower who is aware and has a plan for adaptability in place, becoming an early adopter of new approaches and technology as part of that plan, will be well-positioned to take advantage of these opportunities.

Read part 2 and part 3 of this series.