Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Drought and rising temperatures will challenge California's farmers

Suzanne Bohan in the Contra Costa Times (California): ...In the past century, the state's winter lows have warmed by 2 degrees Fahrenheit, "a significant increase," one expert told a forum last week. Although that warming trend hasn't yet disrupted crops, it is accelerating, Dan Sumner, director of the Agricultural Issues Center at UC Davis, told the Sacramento gathering.

"There's potential for complete crop failure, especially cherries, apricots and other stone fruit," said Louise Jackson, a UC Davis researcher. As an example, Sumner said that as winters warm heat up, peach growers in the warmer southern San Joaquin Valley may have to move northward, where it's cooler.

The forum drew experts in agricultural and climate science, and water and pest management with concerns over extreme weather's threat to California's rich agricultural heartland.
California farmers grow more produce than any other state, supplying half of domestic fruits and vegetables, and almost all the almonds, apricots, raisins, grapes, olives and pistachios. California ranchers are among the leading livestock producers. But California's fast-changing climate will challenge farmers' resiliency. Climate models predict global temperature increases from 2 to 11.5 degrees by 2100, depending on heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions.

Among the threats discussed:
  • A loss of up to half of the Sierra Nevada snowpack, which yields one-third of the state's freshwater,
  • Hotter summers threatening numerous crops with sunburn, leaf wilt and other maladies, and harming livestock sensitive to high temperatures,
  • Invasive insects and weeds from southern regions moving north,
  • A drying trend around the state, increasing competition for water,
  • Extreme weather, particularly heat waves and prolonged, severe droughts.
In May 1942, Dorothea Lange took this in San Jose, California. Farm family in their strawberry field a few days before evacuation

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