Thursday, October 30, 2008

Yolo County, California ponders the future of agriculture

Daily Democrat (California): How will climate change affect Yolo County's agriculture? There is much in the news these days about the potential effects of higher temperatures, rising sea level, and drought in the Western United States, but translating these global trends into local projections for agriculture is not an easy task.

During the past few months, a group of UC Davis faculty has worked with Yolo County administrators and agencies to understand the agricultural options and complexities in dealing with climate change over the next 50 years. The project was supported by the California Energy Commission and the UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute.

…The UC Davis report, soon to be released by the CEC, is neither a handbook, nor a set of predictions, but instead considers planning issues at both the farm and landscape levels. Several types of methods were used to assemble information relevant to Yolo County's agriculture, e.g., literature reviews, models, landscape analysis, interviews with agency personnel, and a survey of farmers. Based on the analysis of mitigation practices in the report, the most promising management options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions are using less nitrogen fertilizer and farmscaping with woody perennials.

…It should be noted, however, that these projections have not adequately considered the potential for adaptation, and are based on current practices and varieties. Support for investments in technology, plant breeding, and cropping system research will be necessary to ensure yield reliability, and greater agricultural sustainability.

…This awareness of climate change bodes well for agricultural preservation in Yolo County, as vigorous planning strategies are needed to increase the benefits to growers from payments to increase the mitigation of greenhouse gasses, and to reduce vulnerabilities to climate change through innovative practices and landscape management.

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