Climate change team tours research sites

Participants in a multi-year $20 million climate change study will next week tour research sites across the region.

They are analyzing the effects the changing climate will have on agriculture, such as higher summer temperatures.

University of Idaho atmospheric scientist Von Walden said there is solid evidence that rising carbon dioxide levels related to industrialization in the last 150 years is causing warming of the planet.

Walden said computer model simulations predict a two- to seven-degree Fahrenheit rise in summer temperatures by about 2050. Precipitation changes are harder to predict, but could be affected by higher winter temperatures, he said.

“There’s a misperception out there that climate change is going to be bad for wheat production in the area,” project manager Dianne Daley Laursen said. “That’s not necessarily true. Effects could be negative or positive.”

Daley Laursen said the field tour highlights the variety and depth of the project for researchers to see what everyone else is doing.

They’re working to study factors that haven’t necessarily been combined before, she said, such as the socioeconomic impact and cropping system models.

The USDA-funded Regional Approaches to Climate Change in Pacific Northwest Agriculture (REACCH) project involves 65 researchers from the University of Idaho, Oregon State University, USDA Agricultural Research Service and Washington State University. The project is designed to predict the effects of climate change on agriculture.

They will tour research sites June 19-20, including Washington State University’s Cook Agronomy Farm and farms in St. John, Ralston and Ritzville, Wash.

University of Idaho entomologist Sanford Eigenbrode, the project director, said the work includes combining models of cropping systems with climate models. Cropping system models examine potential yield and inputs like fertilizer or water use, all of which are influenced by weather and climate. The models project how systems will perform under different scenarios, and how much more a grower might have to spend on inputs.

“It’s important for us to be able to quantify some of those projections, especially if some things will be good and some things will not be so good,” Eigenbrode said.

For example, he said he is “relieved” to find that parasitic biological controls of the cereal leaf beetle will not likely be disrupted by climate change. If the services provided by such beneficial insects continue to not be affected, “that’s one less thing complicating our management that needs to be a concern,” Eigenbrode said.

Researchers will look over the effect on crop rotations and use of treated municipal waste on Ron Jirava’s farm in Ritzville.

“It’s such a huge thing, and it’s supposed to be all-inclusive,” Jirava said of the project.

He also believes REACCH will be used to keep funding for long-term research sites begun under defunded programs like Solutions to Environmental and Economic Problems (STEEP) and the PM10 Project to be maintained. Those Washington State University programs looked to develop cropping system technology to control soil erosion through tillage and reduce dust emissions from agricultural soils.

Jirava said much data has been gathered on his farm and other farms.

“We’ll make use of all of it, I know that,” he said. “Even if it doesn’t work, sometimes that’s better information than if it does work.”



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