Great Lakes New York Agriculture

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Climate Change in New York
Brook Trout
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Climate Change Impacts:

New York's agriculture generated $3.4 billion in 2001, with more than 37,000 farms producing a diverse array of products including livestock, poultry, dairy, fruit, feedgrains, and vegetables. A warmer climate is likely to have some positive impacts for agriculture, 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.

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

  • Changes in Crop Yield
    Increased atmospheric carbon dioxide and nitrogen, as well as a longer growing season, could boost yields of some crops. 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 costs 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.

  • A Decline in Maple Syrup Production
    With the climate projected to become unfavorable for maple trees by the end of the century, syrup production is likely to decline.

  • An Increase in Risk for Perennial Crops
    Further climate variability is particularly problematic for perennial crops, such as such as fruit trees and vineyards, because adjustments cannot be made as flexibly and long-term investments in the crops and specialized equipment are at risk.

  • A Decrease in Livestock Productivity
    Dairy cowsHigh 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.

  • 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 off-site costs, including nutrient overloads and pollution to local water ways.

Photo Credits:
Brook Trout -- Gerald C. Bucher.
Dairy Cows -- Keith Weller, USDA
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