Agroclimate Science

Ensuring Sustainable, Adaptive Agroecosystems

NIFA-funded projects support the development of sustainable agriculture and forestry-based strategies that will be resilient to changing climate and result in improved ecosystem services, such as clean water, reduced erosion, and reduced greenhouse gases (GHG). These strategies include the selective breeding of crops and livestock, improved agronomic and animal husbandry approaches,and understanding the potential impacts on the landscape by changing management and land use practices.

  • Identify new production practices that simultaneously increase the resiliency of agriculture and forestry systems with improved soil health and reduced GHG emissions;
  • Reduce energy, nitrogen, carbon, and water footprints in agricultural production systems;
  • Translate genomics research and resulting technologies to the agricultural and forestry production sector to adapt to climate variability;
  • Develop and implement new nitrogen fertilizer recommendations that optimize yields while reducing GHG emissions; and
  • Improve agricultural and forest sector inputs to climate change models.
Photo of a tornado. NOAA photo.

Impacts

Nebraska Extension Tackles Extreme Weather

Nebraska has experienced five $1 billion severe-storm events since 2010. University of Nebraska Extension educators are helping Nebraskans increase their knowledge and use of climate and weather information and resources through four focus areas: climate literacy, natural resource management, extreme weather resiliency, and scenario-based planning. The team hosted climate science presentations for more than 1,000 producers and crop consultants and held field-to-market workshops.

Mitigating Past Agricultural Impacts, Improving

Water Quality, and Sequestering Carbon Salt water intrusion is on the rise in upland crops in the delta region of California that emit large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Researchers at University of California, Davis have examined the issue and provided information to farmers on the economic viability of transitioning to rice and the benefits from California’s GHG emissions goals. One important finding is the amount of uptake of nitrous oxide (negative emissions) in these systems.

Cattle grazing at the Tuckahoe Plantation, in Goochland County, VA area, the boyhood home of President Thomas Jefferson from 1745 until 1752 and today a working farm. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Helping Animal Production Systems Pass the Sniff Test

The livestock industry needs a suite of robust technologies to reduce gaseous emissions to minimize their smell, the carbon/nitrogen footprint,and address variable climate concerns. Iowa State University researchers have shown that a bio-based, soybean-derived compound mitigates ammonia emissions up to 68 percent and major odors up to 90 percent without significant increase in nitrous oxide emissions.

Managing Pests in the Golden Triangle

Non-native invasive shrubs, such as glossy buckthorn,reduce the regeneration and growth of economically important tree species. Researchers at the University of New Hampshire examined the effects of buckthorn on Eastern white pine seedlings, as well as possible control mechanisms in both managed stands and natural areas. Their research found that two to three cuttings of buckthorn to ground level, at 28-day intervals, results in 100 percent eradication.

Does Slick Hair Beat the Heat?

Dairy cattle with high heat tolerance (Bos indicus) generally produce less milk than cattle from temperate climes (Bos taurus). Researchers at University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez studied a union of the two types, the Puerto Rican Holstein, which features a short, slick coat of hair. They determined that the breed does tolerate heat better than its normal-haired Holstein counterpart. Countries with hot climates could take advantage of this discovery to potentially increase their food production and help reduce hunger.

Scientist looking at an electrophoresis gel. Photo by Edwin Remsberg for USDA.

Strengthening Virginia’s Forests

Virginia State University (VSU) builds and strengthens forestry within the state. VSU Extension professionals support underserved populations, small and limited-resource landowners, and minority and economically disadvantaged communities. Educational outreach programs include small woodlot management practices, alternative forest production systems, and urban forest management practices.

Online Tool Helps Producers Make Better Long-Term Decisions

Purdue University, Indiana, led a team of researchers, that included University of Wisconsin Extension, in an effort to create decision support tools and resources that will enhance farm resilience to a variable and changing climate. The result is the U2U-Useful to Usable-project is a web-based one-stop shop for information that helps farmers manage increasingly variable weather and climate conditions across the Corn Belt.

Creating a Glimpse into the Future

University of Maryland researchers used Earth System Modeling to simulate the impacts of decadal climate variability on water and agriculture in the Missouri River Basin. They input simulated data, crop yields, and various expenses, including crop insurance, into an economic impacts model. Projections indicated a value of $30-$80 million for that region alone.