Great Lakes Ohio Agriculture

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Climate Change in Ohio
Monarch Butterfly
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Climate Change Impacts:

Ohio ranks among the top states nationwide in winter wheat, soybean, and oats production. It is also a top producer of eggs, cheese, 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.

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 Ohio are:

  • Changes in Crop Yield
    Corn rowsIncreased 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—such as the drought of 2002 that caused Governor Taft to request disaster declaration from the USDA—would hurt crops and may require irrigation of previously rain-fed crops, increasing the costs to farmers as well as increasing the pressure 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 Decrease in 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:
Monarch Butterfly -- Ohio Department of Natural Rescources, Mike Williams and Tim Daniel.
Corn rows -- Gene Aliexander (Courtesy of USDA).
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