flooded field

Agriculture has always been at the mercy of Mother Nature. Often, it is either too wet or too dry, too hot or too cold. Even with this day to day, month to month and year to year variation, historically there was a degree of reliability year after year to knowing when it was time to plant and when it was time to harvest.

Throughout history, climate impacts on crop production are notable. Crop yields have been impacted by past weather extremes of droughts and floods. Water availability coupled with elevated temperatures are dominant climatic factors creating variations in crop yields. In most years, decreases in crop yields have occurred due to short-term exposure to stresses characterized by lack of adequate soil moisture or temperatures outside of the optimal range for plant growth.

It is not surprising that farmers are recognizing changes in weather patterns. In a recent Ohio State University survey of 918 farmers in the Corn Belt, 51% indicated that they believed that climate was changing. While the respondents indicated they personally have experienced the impacts of changing weather patterns (e.g. warmer winters, variable planting dates, variable rainfall), these impacts were only a slight concern to most respondents.

Ohio trends

Ohio’s climate is changing. Over the past century, Ohio has gotten warmer and wetter. Floods are becoming more frequent as the number of extreme rainfall events have increased. Elevated temperatures coupled with dry summer growing seasons increases the need for irrigation.

Temperature – Average annual temperatures in Ohio have risen more than 1.5 degrees since the beginning of the 20th century. The warming has been concentrated in the winter and spring. While summer day-time temperatures have not increased substantially, there has been an increase in the summer night-time temperatures and an increase in the number of warm nights (temperature of 70 degrees or higher).

Growing Season – The length of the growing season (annual frost-free season) in Ohio has increased by 9 days over the past several decades. Most of the change taking place is a result of earlier date for the last spring freeze and a later date for the first fall freeze.

Precipitation – The number of heavy (2-inch or more) rain events in Ohio has significantly increased in since the mid-1990s resulting in an increase in flooding events. Coupled with an increase in winter and spring-time rainfall, the number of wet days and multiple wet day events have increased by as much as 30% across the state.

Migrating State

What future climate conditions should Ohio farmers be prepared for? A tool often used to illustrate future climate and how changing climate might affect a specific state is to conduct a migrating state analysis. A migrating state analysis is a dramatic way of visualizing projected future climate conditions in a state and comparing them with present day climate conditions in other states today. Projected changes in temperature, humidity and precipitation will alter how climate feels to Ohio residents. Based on projected temperature, humidity and precipitation, future Ohio summers might resemble those in Arkansas and future Ohio winters might become similar to those in Virginia.

Farmers adjust and adapt

Farmers in the Midwest have been increasingly impacted by climate change-related extreme weather events over the last several decades. Droughts, extreme rain events, floods, tornados and derechos have damaged crops, killed livestock, destroyed homes, barns and grain storage structures. As a result, Midwest farmers are developing and implementing adaptive strategies to cope effectively with these impacts. Farmers have always employed different adaptation strategies to prevent yield reductions due to weather variability. Climate change and the more variable and extreme weather it brings has made taking adaptive action more urgent.

Two farmer surveys were conducted across several the Midwestern Corn Belt states (Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio) to investigate the factors associated with farmer adaptation to changes in extreme weather. The surveys revealed that farmers recognize that the climate is changing and they are experiencing climate impacts in their day-to-day farming operation. To combat these impacts, many farmers have taken adaptive actions. Planting more resilient varieties of crops, outsourcing some on-farm activities, changing tillage practices and installing additional drain tile are common adaptation strategies.

Key Takeaway Messages

• Changes in temperature and precipitation patterns has disrupted the timing of the typical crop production cycle of field preparation, planting, spraying and harvesting.

• Average annual precipitation has increased between 5 and 15%. Fall, winter and spring seasons are getting wetter and the summer is getting drier. Drier growing season will expand the need for irrigation.

• Increases in extreme precipitation events accelerates the degradation of critical soil and water resources. Excessive runoff erodes soil, reduces water quality, and damages infrastructure. Improved management practices are essential for building resilience to these challenges.

• Warmer spring and fall temperatures have expanded the growing season by 10 days but increased spring and fall precipitation have reduced the number of available field work days by the same amount, essentially offsetting the gain in the longer growing season.

• Warmer and shorter winters creates the opportunity for crop pests, pathogens and invasive plant species that are normally kept in check by cold temperatures to expand their ranges northward.

• Increase in summer high temperature creates health challenges to livestock.

• Warmer temperatures increase the potential for soil moisture stress and drought.

• Warmer summer night-time low temperatures negatively impact crop growth and yield and livestock production.

• More intense rain events require adaptation in row-crop agriculture to suppress soil erosion, including methods such as the use of cover crops, grassed waterways, water management systems, contour farming, and prairie strips.

• Farmers recognize that the climate is changing and are taking actions to try to mitigate the impacts.

• Based on temperature, humidity and precipitation, future summers in Ohio could resemble those in Arkansas and winters could be similar to those in Virginia.

Online Extra

Here is the report for download.

Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
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Mandy Way

Way Farms

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Ernie Welch

Van Wert County Farm Bureau

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Matt Aultman

Darke County Farm Bureau

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Jaclyn De Candio

Clark County Farm Bureau

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Coshocton County Farm Bureau

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Jared Hughes

Groovy Plants Ranch

Groovy Plants Ranch
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Hardin County Farm Bureau

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Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

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