Saturday, October 25, 2008

USDA scientist gives insight on climate change and its implications for world agriculture

Kansas City Infozine: "No sector of agriculture is going to escape the impact of climate change," said Jerry Hatfield, who's with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA/ARS). He joined several other experts to speak about climate change at Kansas State University Oct. 21. The presentation was part of the 2008 K-State Research and Extension Annual Conference, held to update Extension agents on research in various disciplines.

Hatfield, the lead scientist and director of the USDA/ARS National Soil Tilth Lab in Ames, Iowa, noted that in any given year, farmers and consumers see the impact of climate fluctuations on a crop in a particular area. It may be an early freeze that kills the citrus crop in Florida or a drought that cuts wheat output in Australia. Those are normal, regional fluctuations that affect supplies and prices. In the case of global climate change, however, agriculture around the world is affected, Hatfield said, noting that farmers as far north as Pierre, S.D. are now planting corn and soybeans.

Hatfield cited the example of livestock -- which, like humans, have an optimum range of temperatures at which they are most comfortable. With cattle, for instance, if the air temperature is far enough above the animals' comfort range, their appetite is reduced. In turn, their rate of weight gain is reduced. Milk production and conception rates can also be affected…..

…Crop production also will be affected, he said. "This increasing impact of climate change will tax our ability to efficiently produce crops," Hatfield said. "Every plant species has a point at which it quits growing."

…Global climate change will have an impact on weed and insect populations and will prompt changes in planting dates, he said.

Johannes Hubertus Leonardus de Haas painted this young bull a long time ago