California Farmers Explore Climate Change

In the wake of a crippling drought that devastated crop production across the United States, farmers in major agricultural breadbaskets are exploring the potential damage posed by climate change and global warming. In California, the fertile, but potentially threatened, San Joaquin Valley is the major target of climate change research.

2012 has been a climatological roller coaster across much of the country. After a warm, dry winter (that lengthened growing cycles and caused some crops to bloom early), farmers experienced a brutally hot and dry spring and summer, culminating in the worst nationwide drought in more than 50 years. With more than 65 percent of the country experiencing severe drought conditions, (and more than 1,000 counties declared disaster areas) the drought ground agricultural production to a halt.

In the San Joaquin Valley, climatologists and farmers are exploring the potential impact of global warming on California agriculture. While the valley is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world, it could face longer stretches of hot days, fewer and fewer cold days, and critical water shortages in the near future.

In light of the potential damage to the industry, farmers are experimenting with different growing cycles and different crops in order to maximize their production even in the face of difficult weather. Even farmers who do not believe climate change is occurring have acknowledged the importance of staying ahead of the weather. According to the head of the California Citrus Mutual, “I am not completely buying into it. But as an industry, it behooves us to be out in front of an issue that could affect the production of citrus in the state.”

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer