Great Lakes Indiana Agriculture

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Climate Change in Indiana
Piping Plover
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Climate Change Impacts:

Indiana ranks among the top states nationwide in feed crop (corn), soybean, and tobacco production. It is also a top producer of certain vegetables and livestock. There are likely to be some positive impacts for agriculture resulting from a warmer climate, although current evidence suggests that the negative consequences could outweigh the positive. In general, however, regional development, technological advances, and market fluctuations have as much influence on farmers as the climate.

Climate variability will likely pose greater risk for smaller farms and thus may reinforce the trend toward increasing farm size and industrialization of agriculture in the region. These changes will affect local farming communities, and, in turn, change the character of rural landscapes across the state.

Changes in climate, precipitation cycles, and severe weather will have many effects upon farming in Indiana. Among the potential impacts of climate change with implications for agriculture in Indiana are:

  • Changes in Crop Yield
    Corn HarvestIncreased atmospheric carbon dioxide and nitrogen, as well as a longer growing season, could boost yields of some crops, such as soybeans and wheat. However, higher ozone concentrations can damage soybeans and horticultural crops, countering positive impacts of a warmer climate. In addition, severe storms and floods during the planting and harvest seasons could decrease crop productivity. Hotter and drier summers and potentially more droughts would hurt crops and may require irrigation of previously rain-fed crops, increasing the cost for farmers as well as increasing the pressures on water resources.

  • More Favorable Conditions for Some Pests
    Warmer winters with longer freeze-free periods, shifts in rainfall, and extended growing seasons may create more favorable conditions for pests. More southerly pests, such as corn earworms, may expand northward. Such a shift already appears to be happening with bean leaf beetles, which feed on soybeans and serve as vectors for a virus that causes disease in soybeans. Warming will increase the rate of insect development and the number of generations that can be completed each year, contributing to a build-up of pest populations. Increased pests may drive farmers to use more pesticides or related chemicals, placing an additional burden on water quality.

  • An Increase in Soil Erosion and Runoff
    Heavy rains and flooding could lead to an increase in farmers' costs to maintain soil fertility as well as contribute to nutrient overloads and pollution to local water ways. Off site costs such as water pollution and impacts to aquatic ecosystems, are already estimated at $216 million for the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and Ohio.

  • A Decreased Livestock Productivity
    High temperatures suppress appetite and decrease weight gain in livestock, while warmer winters and less snow cover are projected to reduce the quantity and quality of spring forage, overall decreasing milk quality. In addition, any extreme weather events, such as heat waves, droughts, and blizzards, have severe effects on livestock health, although intensively managed livestock operations are better able to buffer the effects of extreme events.

Photo Credits:
Piping Plover -- National Park Service, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Corn Harvest -- Charles Herron (Courtesy of USDA)
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