Thursday, October 24, 2013

Iowa scientists say climate change is threatening the state's highly productive agriculture

Scientists in Iowa say climate change is posing a threat to the future of the state's farms. In their report, entitled "Iowa Climate Statement 2013: A Rising Challenge to Iowa Agriculture," the authors write: "Our state has long held a proud tradition of helping to 'feed the world.' Our ability to do so is now increasingly threatened by rising greenhouse gas emissions and resulting climate change. Our climate has disrupted agricultural production profoundly during the past two years and is projected to become even more harmful in coming decades as our climate continues to warm and change." (Map by Union of Concerned Scientists: How Iowa's climate could become more like that of Kansas, then Arkansas)

Iowa ranks first in the U.S. in corn and soybean production, and the state produces 28 percent of the nation's pork and much of its cattle, according to Iowa Farm Bureau. Changing weather, which can indicate climate change, is a major concern for producers. This spring was the wettest in the 140 years the state has kept records, "creating conditions that hampered the timely planting of corn and soybean fields," which led to 62 of Iowa's 99 counties experiencing severe enough storms and flooding to be declared federal disaster areas. The wet spring was followed by a hot and dry summer, with the extreme change in temperatures causing severe problems to crops. The report states: "In a warming climate, wet years get wetter and dry years get dryer and hotter. The climate likely will continue to warm due to increasing emissions of heat‐trapping gases."

Intense rain increases soil erosion, and "the increase in hot nights that accompanies hot, dry periods reduces dairy and egg production, weight gain of meat animals, and conception rates in breeding stock," the report states. "Warmer winters and earlier springs allow disease‐causing agents and parasites to proliferate, and these then require greater use of agricultural pesticides. Iowa’s soils and agriculture remain our most important economic resources, but these resources are threatened by climate change."

The report was signed by 156 scientists specializing in areas such as agronomy, biology, chemistry, biochemical engineering and geography. To read the full report, click here.

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