Funding for climate change research

Funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for research on greenhouse gas mitigation in agriculture will increase by more than 10-fold, according to an announcement from USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

K-State has been a national leader in this field of research, including extensive work on agricultural soil carbon sequestration, said Chuck Rice, K-State University Distinguished Professor of Agronomy and national director of the Consortium for Agricultural Mitigation of Greenhouse Gases. Rice was a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

"At K-State, we have had one of the most active research and extension programs in the country on greenhouse gas mitigation in agriculture," Rice said.

"Our work has helped establish carbon sequestration rates for no-till and grasslands used by emerging carbon markets. We also have helped establish national baselines for soil carbon levels, guidelines on carbon sequestration in cropping systems, and ways to limit nitrous oxide emissions."

In conjunction with this work, K-State recently received part of a $20 million National Science Foundation grant that helped further establish Kansas as an internationally recognized leader in global climate change and renewable energy research.

The new increase in USDA funding for climate change research in agriculture comes as the U.S. joined 20 other countries across the globe on Dec. 16, 2009 to announce the formation of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA), an international research collaborative to combat climate change. K-State has been partnering with several countries included in Global Research Alliance, including Australia, Canada, Colombia and New Zealand.

Over the next four years, USDA will expand agricultural climate change mitigation research by $90 million and contribute this research to the GRA. The increase will raise USDA´s agricultural climate change mitigation research portfolio to more than $130 million over the next four years, up from a base level of funding of just over $10 million in fiscal year 2009. USDA´s enhanced commitment is part of a larger increase on climate change research at the Department. Overall, USDA announced that it expects to invest more than $320 million in the next four years on climate change mitigation and adaptation research for agriculture.

In conjunction with this announcement, USDA also released a new report titled "The Effects of Climate Change on U.S. Ecosystems." This report summarizes the most recent scientific findings on how climate change will affect agricultural systems in the U.S. and worldwide.

For more information on the USDA GRA initiative, see and go to the "Press Room." Search for Release No. 0615.09 from Dec. 16, 2009.

New USDA report on the impact of climate change on agriculture

Based on a consensus of recent scientific research and modeling, a new report from USDA concludes that climate change is already affecting U.S. agriculture, land resources, water resources and biodiversity. The report, "The Effects of Climate Change on U.S. Ecosystems," identifies many of the effects of climate change on agriculture and other ecosystems in the U.S. over the next several decades. The USDA report was done in cooperation with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP).

Some of the report´s main points:

* Grain and oilseed crops will mature more rapidly, but increasing temperatures will heighten the risk of crop failures, particularly where precipitation decreases or becomes more variable.

* Marketable yield of horticultural crops (such as tomato, onion, and fruit) are more vulnerable to climate change than grains and oilseed crops due to the high sensitivity of their quality and appearance to climate factors.

* Livestock mortality will decrease with warmer winters but this will be more than offset by greater mortality in hotter summers. Hotter temperatures also will result in reduced productivity of livestock and dairy animals, due to changes in consumption and lower pregnancy rates.

* Weeds that can thwart agriculture production grow more rapidly under elevated atmospheric CO2, extend their range northward, and are less sensitive to herbicide applications.

* Disease and pest prevalence will escalate as a result of shorter, warmer winters, challenging crop, livestock, and forest systems.

* The trends toward reduced mountain snowpack and earlier spring snowmelt runoff in the Western U.S., and toward increasing drought in the West and Southwest, imply changes in the availability of water and a need to monitor the performance of reservoir systems with implications for water management and irrigated agriculture in that region.

* Climate change is inducing shifts in plant species in rangelands, favoring the establishment of perennial herbaceous species that reduce soil water availability early in the growing season. Shorter winters, however, decrease the need for seasonal forage reserves.

For the complete report, see:

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