Since 1950, Cedar Rapids has experienced 18 years with more than 40 inches of precipitation. Between 1890 and 1950, there were only two such years. In the 1890s, Cedar Rapids averaged 3.6 heavy rain events of 1.25 inches per year. By 2011 the average increased 69 percent to 6.1 days.From 1890 to 1950 there were no years in which daily precipitation exceeded 2.5 inches in eight or more days, but from 1950 through 2010 there were nine such days. Takle points out these heavy rain events create runoff, erosion and loss of topsoil.
ISU projections for future growing season precipitation show a continuing trend toward more high-precipitation years and more low-precipitation years over the coming decades.
These extreme weather events, rather than warming alone, require adaptations such as modified tillage practices to reduce erosion and conserve moisture, and development of more drought-resistant crop varieties.
Takle says climate change has some positive and some negative effects on agriculture. Longer growing seasons can bring higher yields in some commodity crops, and reduced frost damage. Some crops such as fruits in California need chilling hours to ripen. An increase in dry days, particularly in the East, West and South, result in moisture stress on crops. Higher heat and humidity favors more pests and pathogens, and an increase in the number of hot nights reduces livestock performance.
Yoder outlined the adaptation strategies the group recommends, which focus on three actions:
- Actions to increase resistance to changes in climate in order to maintain existing practices
- Actions to improve resilience by investing in steps that preempt disasters and restore systems in the wake of them
- Actions to transform operations
Rice notes there is no single or simple solution for adapting to the changing climate. The group has developed specific recommendations under several broad headings.
- Risk Management
- Decision-making Tools
- Production Systems & Practices
- Communications, Outreach, & Education
Carrying out the recommendations will require dialog and collaboration between a range of stakeholder groups. Currently, a variety of groups including Farm Bureau, National Corn Growers Association, Farmers Union, Association of Public Land Grant Universities, National Association of Conservation Districts, Nature Conservancy and others will serve as outreach partners to disseminate and discuss the recommendations.
Read the full report from 25x’25.