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2018 Partners Meeting

Hosted by the USDA Northeast Climate Hub and partners, this meeting examined the state of our knowledge on climate adaptation and actions to support agriculture in our region.

The USDA Northeast Climate Hub and partners invited participants from university, federal and state agencies, and the private sector. Researchers, farmers, and other practitioners were also invited to provide their perspectives on climate adaptation and resilience. Building upon the foundational understanding of climate trends and impacts, participants investigated solutions by sharing adaptation experiences and discussed the feasibility, cost-effectiveness, and tradeoffs. Altogether, this meeting aided the Northeast community in an exchange of information and ideas that will drive continued collaboration and advancement of climate adaptation in agriculture. 

The proceedings from this workshop include recorded talks, summaries and synthesis of discussion. Together, this document captures some of the research, expertise, and experiences of those working to address climate adaptation and actions to support agriculture in our region.

Full program Proceedings

For background, the current and future capacity of research and Extension faculty and staff at land-grant universities across the Northeast to address climate change issues in the agricultural, natural resource, and forestry sectors was assessed in 2015. Through this effort, the need for bringing together Extension professionals within the region to share and closely examine the details of available climate information and the feasibility of concrete adaptation strategies was determined. The results were published in the report, Climate Change Capacity Discovery: Current Activities and Future Priorities at Land-grant Universities in the Northeast.

Slides and Recorded Presentation Index

Keynote speaker
  • by Randi Johnson, USDA NIFA Director of Global Climate Change

    Dr. Johnson started by highlighting that the USDA Climate Hubs are crucial to the USDA and its ‘One USDA’ vision as they are the epitome of agency collaboration. This administration values the Climate Hubs as they are helping with key USDA priorities. Currently, USDA’s Climate Change Program Ofice and NIFA’s Division of Global Climate Change are focusing on sustainability and water quality. Dr. Johnson recommended researchers and extension frame what they do in grant proposals to fit the current priorities. Participants are encouraged to check out the Climate Science Special Report – 2017 (National Climate Assessment 4).

    Dr. Johnson stated, “Climate change is still a valid topic in USDA.” She emphasized that how you frame the conversation is important. “What we are doing is important, but we have to frame it right. We need to recognize need for strong resilient rural economies. We also need to talk about what is important to our stakeholders.” USDA focuses on economic solutions specific to the US, as evidenced by the Farm Bill and legislative priorities. Think about focusing your research and outreach in economic terms. For example, what are ways to reduce crop insurance costs? She mentioned regulatory reform that requires good conversation with the farmers and policy makers. If a farmer keeps water and nutrients in the field rather than the streams, it makes farmers happier and then they aren't impacted by regulation.

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  • Climate Trends and Related Risks in the Northeast
  • by Arthur DeGaetano, Northeast Regional Climate Center

    The effects of climate change are already being felt across the northeastern U.S. and will continue to be felt in the future. The most recent observed climate trends will be examined. Future projections based on the latest set of global climate model simulations and the downscaling technique that will be adopted in the next U.S. national climate assessment will also be presented. Changes will include increases in winter temperatures, a lengthening of the frost- free season and changes in the character of rainfall throughout the year. Special attention will be directed to trends in climate variables that are likely to have the greatest impact on Northeast agriculture. These include an examination of spring freeze risk in fruit crops, the impact of summer heat stress on dairy production, and potential changes in spring fieldwork conditions.

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  • by Alex Hristov, Pennsylvania State University

    The livestock industries are a major contributor to the economy of the northeastern United States. Climate models predict increased average maximum temperatures, days with temperatures exceeding 25°C, and higher annual precipitation in the Northeast. These environmental changes combined with increased atmospheric CO2 concentration are expected to either increase or decrease forage productivity depending on the crop, and may decrease protein content and forage digestibility. Winter damage to sensitive forage species may also increase.

    Predicted temperature increases are expected to reduce fertility in dairy cattle and heat stress-induced inflammation may limit energy available for productive functions. Additional loss in milk production due to decreased feed intake is estimated to be up to 1% of the projected annual milk production through 2100. The effects of climate change on the beef industry in the Northeast are expected to be minimal. Broiler production in the region may benefit from warmer winter and summer temperatures, but future housing will require greater insulation and ventilation fan capacity. Providing adequate housing and ventilation to offset climate changes will also be important for the layer industry and will likely increase the price of eggs.

    Climate change is expected to have an economic impact on the horse industry in the region through additional management of land and forage resources, building of shelters, and heat abatement at equine events. Increased temperatures and more intense storms will increase nutrient losses and gaseous emissions from animal manure. Uncertainties about how host animals, pathogens, and disease vectors will respond to climate change highlight the need for continued animal health monitoring.

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  • by David Wolfe, Cornell University

    Climate change may both exacerbate the vulnerabilities and open up new opportunities for farming in the Northeastern United States. Among the opportunities are double-cropping and new crop options that may come with warmer temperatures and a longer frost-free period. However, prolonged periods of spring rains in recent years have delayed planting and offset the potentially beneficial longer frost-free period. Water management will be a serious challenge for Northeast farmers in the future, with projections for increased frequency of heavy rainfall events, as well as projections for more frequent summer water deficits than this historically humid region has experienced in the past.

    Adaptations to increase resilience to such changes include: expanded irrigation capacity; new water monitoring and irrigation scheduling tools; farm drainage systems that collect excess rain into ponds for use as a water source during dry periods; and soil health management for improved water holding capacity and drainage.

    A major concern for the economically important perennial fruit crop industry over the next several decades is increased risk of spring frost damage associated with warmer and variable winter and early spring temperatures. New bloom date prediction tools, improved real-time frost warning systems, and use of misting, wind machine, or other frost protection measures will be important adaptation strategies. Increased weed and pest pressure associated with longer growing seasons and warmer winters is another increasingly important challenge. Pro-active development of non-chemical control strategies, improved regional monitoring, and rapid-response plans for targeted control of invasive weeds and pests will be necessary.

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  • by David Hollinger, USDA Northeast Climate Hub

    The Director of the Northeast Hub will provides an introduction and overview of cost-effective adaptation practices to climate change. He alsos review the Northeast Climate Hub’s priorities for FY18.

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  • Identifying Impacts and Adaptation in the Northeast: Examples from Across the Region
  • by Sonja Birthisel and Ellen Mallory, University of Maine

    Communication between farmers, extension staff, research faculty scientists, and government agencies is critical to help farmers succeed under our changing climate. In this presentation, we heard about several outreach activities on farming operations in Maine (with focuses on sheep and fiber, honeybees, turf, and vegetables). Some of the climate impacts that Maine farmers are facing include: increased heavy precipitation, longer growing seasons, lengthier and milder winters, cooler and wetter springs, summer droughts, and an increase in ice storm frequency.

    Sheep farmers in Maine face intense storms, or ‘killing rains,’ which impact herd health and hurt yarn production. One adaption to this is to alter lamb and sheep production timing to strengthen the herd during vulnerable times. These heavy rains are also causing erosion, which limits field access for many mixed vegetable, apple, and berry farmers. Adaptation strategies include the use of permanent raised bed systems and/or adjusting the bed orientation. Many orchard fruit farmers are most concerned with the increase in pests and disease outbreaks. While the growing seasons in Maine are, on average, getting longer, many turf farmers are particularly concerned about droughts and bee farmers are concerned about plant flowering periods.

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  • by Angelica Carey, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

    Carey shared her experience in a pilot study to assess adaptive capacity of farmers. Resilience should be measured from multiple angles including social/or societal, economical, and environmental capacities. For example, a farmer’s personal knowledge might help them plan an action, but resources can help them better respond and take an action. With this in mind, Angelica concentrated on three adaptive capacities: knowledge, action, and resources. Assessment of 10 farmers with a 12 question survey focused on how a farmer would develop components of adaptive capacity to improve their ability to farm now and in the future.

    The farmers who participated in the pilot study believe climate change is occurring and that it affects the way they do farming. Heavier precipitation, stormier weather, and drought during the summer were impacts most noted by farmers. These farmers were also concerned about irrigation and soil manipulation techniques, costs of changes in relation to labor, and more. However, taking “action” was identified as a major gap, and taking action at the right time was another gap identified with farmers.

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  • by Jennifer de Mooy, Delaware Division of Energy and Climate

    In this talk, Jennifer de Mooy, Delaware Division of Energy and Climate, provides an overview to some of the assessments on climate change’s impact on farmers in Delaware (and places with a ‘Delaware type climate’). Climate characteristics are unique to Delaware as it is in a transition zone between the Northeast and Southeast. Some of the issues common to Delaware with other Northeast states include: heat impacts on animals, heat and changing rainfall impacts on crops, increased weed, insects and pests in the field/ crop predation, land use limitations due to sea level rise, and nutrient loss in soils due to heat and changing intensities of rainfalls. One of the gaps addressed in this presentation was that farmers should be provided sufficient information and education to know where to obtain accurate information on specific climate change issues.

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  • by Pam Mount, Farmer, Terhune Orchards, Lawrence, NJ

    Pam Mount, owner of Terhune Orchards, shares her own experiences in running a diverse large-scale farming operation, including her lessons learned and practices applied. Her orchard’s primary focus is on apple, peach and pear cultivation. She has been able to sustain her farm practices all year-long by using high tunnels and greenhouses to protect her crops and expand their grow-out timeline. According to Pam, small farms start with the family, and taking action is slow in family-run farms. Taking an action that is addressed as a gap can make a farmer hesitate, especially if they do not have enough background on it. How do we think ahead, for future generations? Pam suggested diversifying the farm operations. To illustrate what she meant by this, Pam shared her experience in starting as an orchard owner, and then expanding to open a farm market, bakery, and winery. Lesson learned from her experience is to become a steward of your farm, enjoy your own crops, and learn skills to maximize your profits by providing a variety of options to your customers.

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  • Concurrent Session 1 | Climate Informed Decision Making in a Rapidly Changing Climate
  • by Ellen MeCray, NOAA (Delivered by Art DeGaetano, Northeast Regional Climate Center)

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and our core partners offer a variety of information and resources that apply to some of the key challenges farmers and land managers face in working under changing climate conditions. Over years of working with the US Department of Agriculture, and identifying some of these challenges, this presentation will showcase information from the National Integrated Drought Information System, the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, and the Climate Resilience Toolkit. We will show how to find resources on drought, flooding, extreme temperatures, these variables in historical context, and work NOAA and partners are doing to improve the forecasts into the monthly and seasonal timescales.

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  • by Kevin Brinson, University of Delaware

    Delaware’s humid, sub-tropical summertime precipitation is highly variable within growing seasons and from one growing season to the next. This variability results is large swings in rain-fed crop production from year-to-year. As a result, growers in Delaware have adopted irrigation technology to adapt and reduce their vulnerability to potential short and long-term droughts. To aid growers with irrigated farm fields, the Univeristy of Delaware Center for Environmental Monitoring and Analysis (CEMA) collaborated with University of Delaware Cooperative Extension to develop the Delaware Irrigation Management System (DIMS) in 2010. Each year, 100-125 irrigated fields are managed through DIMS at the University of Delaware. DIMS uses the FAO 56 method for determining crop water demand for eight different crop types, with automated inputs of weather data from DEOS and dominant soil texture class data from the USDA soils database.

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  • by Allison Chatrchyan, Cornell University / CICSS

    Cornell University established the Climate Smart Farming (CSF) Program and CSF Extension Team in 2015 to help farmers in the Northeast to make more informed decisions and increase adaptation and mitigation to climate change. Through a partnership with the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell, the CSF program has developed agricultural decision support tools (DSTs) to provide farmers with accurate, real-time data about their farm to better manage the risks of climate change. The decision tool website serves as an interactive platform that integrates climate data with agricultural models, and provides free and easy-to-use tools for any farmer in the Northeastern US. Several tools have been built based on input on needs and input from farmers and Extension, include a Growing Degree Day Calculator, Freeze Risk Tools, a Water Deficit Calculator, Cover Crop Calendar developed, and a new NE Drought Atlas and Seasonal Forecasts developed by Dr. Toby Ault.

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  • Concurrent Session 1 | Climate Informed Decision Making in a Rapidly Changing Climate
  • by Maggie Ng, Hampshire College

    Currently, farmers all over the world are facing unprecedented changes in agricultural ecosystems brought on by climate change and subsequent environmental changes. This research focuses on farms within Western Massachusetts, an area which has already experienced certain environmental changes. Through in-person interviews with local farmers and agricultural educators, three important concepts are explored: 1) farmer perception and experience of environmental change, including changing weather patterns and climate change, 2) its impacts on the productivity of their farm, and 3) the implementation of adaptations and solutions to combat these impacts.

    Agricultural educators are also included in this study in order to investigate the perception of people who work closely with farmers, but are not farmers themselves. Similar information is explored, including perceptions of climate change, its impact on local agriculture, and direct farm involvement in adaptive solutions. Adapting to environmental changes is an essential part of maintaining local food systems and livelihoods in the context of climate change. In addition to the interviews, this work is supplemented with current agricultural research. However, working from the perspective of farmers themselves and those who work closely with them allows for a deeper exploration of this knowledge as it exists in the lives of real people.

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  • by John Lea-Cox, University of Maryland

    We are using a variety of cost-effective sensor-based strategies to help farmers adapt to a changing climate, and increase the efficiency of their crop production. This talk will highlight the hardware and software tools that are now available, and some case-studies to illustrate the potential for mitigating the effects of drought with sensor-based irrigation scheduling, other risks (e.g. frost monitoring), and predicting the incidence of pests and diseases with models, for more effective integrated pest management decisions.

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  • by Pam Mount, Farmer, Terhune Orchards, Lawrence, NJ

    Pam Mount, owner of Terhune Orchards, talked about how weather information has helped the sustainable production activities at her farm. She founded "Sustainable Lawrence," which is an organization that plays a role in the process of bringing together local nonprofit, civic organizations, business, school and government leaders to work towards sustainable agriculture production.

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  • Concurrent Session 1 | Adaptations to Climate Change in Forests
  • by Lindsey Rustad, USDA Northeast Climate Hub

    Lindsey Rustad, from U.S. Forest Service, elaborated on the on-the-ground forest adaptation research being carried out by experts, managers, and regional scientists in the Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change project. The multi-regional study with locally suited climate change adaptation treatments will help develop adaptation strategies in forest management. The five sites around the nation are having workshops to discuss the trends and impacts of the project.

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  • by Brett Chedzoy, Cornell Cooperative Extension

    Silvopasturing (the integrated production of trees, forages and livestock) and other agroforestry systems have been recognized as major potential solutions for addressing climate change. This session will give an overview of these agroforestry systems, their potential, and the challenges and solutions for broader implementation in the Northeast.

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  • Concurrent Session 2 | Weathering Water Extremes: Strategies for Adaptation
  • by Kaitlin Farbotnik, USDA NRCS - New Jersey

    Weather patterns have no doubt been changing over the past decades. In the last few years alone, summers either been excessively droughty or excessively wet. Winters have been either unusually warm or brutally cold. Unfortunately, typical crops have not been able to adapt at the rate of these weather changes. Crops become stressed from lack of resources and negative changes in pest populations. The adaptation of conservation practices that have been used for generations are becoming more and more important to make soils and crops resilient to weather extremes.

    Though these conservation practices have been used for decades, and some centuries, practices used in combinations with one another yield the greatest defense against weather and pest challenges. We will discuss which conservation practices are most effective at increasing soil and crop resiliency, how to transition into using those practices, and how to combat the potential negative effects of the practices.

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  • by Hubert Montas, University of Maryland

    Hubert Montas from University of Maryland focused his presentation on the changing rainfall patterns (in volume and intensity) projected for the future. University of Maryland researchers are monitoring increased runof, sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus, but it is dificult to predict what will happen in the future. Some Best Management Practices (BMP) need to be in place in order to help reduce runof in the future.

    However, at the same time, more resources need to be developed to more efectively reduce nutrient runof on Maryland farms. More monitoring of the increasing amounts of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus in hot spot regions is needed. More test models need to be developed across the Northeast region to fill these research gaps. Similarly, it is very hard to determine what the BMP will be in the future with the current, limited data, especially with such extreme weather as of late. Universities could adapt this approach to determine more data points and could further reach out to communities for help.

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  • by Sarah Ficken, Farmer, New Moon Farms, Munnsville, NY

    Sarah Ficken of New Moon Farm in New York has dairy cows, vegetables and pastures. In this talk, Sarah gives a brief synopsis of her farm and the challenges she faces with the ever-changing climate. Sarah is a great example of a farmer who is paving the way through her response to extreme precipitation, drought, changing harvest windows, and a difficult economy. She emphasizes the importance of data and experience sharing. Sarah also acknowledges the many programs that can help farmers save and create income on their farms.

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  • Concurrent Session 2 | How Can We Adapt on a Crop-by Crop Basis?
  • by Issac Fisher, Delaware State University

    Common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) is one of the most important legumes produced worldwide. It is cultivated for its high dietary fiber, protein, and micronutrient content. Abiotic stresses such as drought, heat, cold, and salinity have the potential to limit or completely destroy a crop depending on the severity of the conditions. Plants have adapted means to defend against these different stresses by altering their gene expression patterns, and plant breeders have learned to exploit these differences to develop new cultivars to be grown. Breeders have yet to tap into epigenomic/epigenetic resources for plant improvement though, and it could potentially be a new avenue for developing lines that can help combat climate change.

    Our lab focuses on gathering a deeper understanding of how epigenomic marks change under unfavorable conditions, and the role of these marks on the regulation and alteration of gene expression. With an increasingly changing climate, the occurrence of drought or other extreme conditions are much more likely, and we will have to adapt our domesticated plants accordingly. We have looked at how a single genotype will have varying levels of gene expression when grown in two different locations under both fully irrigated and terminal drought conditions. We have also examined how nucleosome occupancy can change under drought stress thus altering expression levels of drought-responsive genes.

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  • by Lekha Paudel, Delaware State University

    Underserved farmers in Delaware are still facing challenges generating farm income adopting sweet potato ( Ipomoea batatas L.) as an alternative agriculture enterprise during organic transitioning due to lack of knowledge and information. To determine if sweet potato could be successfully produced in Delaware climate with minimum inputs as organic transitioning crops, four accessions of sweet potato were evaluated during growing season of 2012, 2013 and 2014 at Smyrna Outreach and Research Center of Delaware State University. Research results suggest that these sweet potatoes accessions have shown great potential to be good crops for organic transition in Delaware climate without adding any chemicals. However, there is an impact of weather pattern (rainfall) that causes drastic yield variability among these accessions.

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  • by Elizabeth Fiedler, Delaware State University

    The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is the third most consumed root crop in the world and the seventh most important crop overall. Sweet potato is a strategic crop in combating the effects caused by climate change. On a relatively small scale, as in a subsistence farming situation, sweet potato can be grown under no-tillage conditions. Crops that can be grown this way typically don’t require the fossil fuel-powered machinery typically seen on large-scale farming operations. This no-till option also has the potential to reduce soil erosion of fertile growth media. In addition to avoiding soil erosion due to mechanical farming, the sweet potato, with its extensive root system may also be important in the avoidance of water erosion, if planted in and around a wetland area. Sweet potatoes are usually sterile and grown from cuttings, and therefore there are challenges to producing a genetically superior crop. Additionally, viral infections are known to cause a loss of yield in subsequent generations.

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  • by Emmalea Ernest, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension

    Heat stress reduces yields of May and early June-planted lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus) in the Mid-Atlantic Region of the US. High night temperatures during flowering and seed development can reduce or delay pod set, resulting in delayed harvest, lower yield and split pod sets. Breeding heat tolerant baby and Fordhook type lima beans is one goal of the University of Delaware lima bean breeding program. Greenhouse experiments were used to characterize the response of several lima bean genotypes to high versus ideal nighttime temperatures in order to better understand the mechanism by which high night temperatures reduce yield. In greenhouse experiments, heat sensitive genotypes exhibit a number of physiological changes while under heat stress, some of which may interfere with reproduction and affect yield: lower amounts of pollen deposited on the pistil; lower in vitro germination of pollen collected from the pistil; extrusion of the stigmatic pad from the keel; and anther indehiscence.

    Other aspects of reproduction, such as stigma receptivity, may be problematic in some heat sensitive genotypes, but not others. Vegetative growth is not reduced by high night temperatures. Plants grown under stressed and unstressed conditions produced similar shoot dry weights. Heat sensitive plants produce more leaves and stems under high temperature conditions, compensating for the reduction in seed weight. In the University of Delaware lima breeding program, characterization of some of the physiological changes associated with heat sensitivity is being used to screen diverse germplasm and breeding lines in order to select for heat tolerance.

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  • Concurrent Session 2 | Adaptation Considerations for Climate Change Impacts in Coastal Areas
  • by Jenny Shinn, Rutgers University

    As sea levels rise and storms build in frequency, low-lying farms in the mid-Atlantic and in coastal areas around the world will be increasingly vulnerable to the damaging effects of saltwater flooding. Along the eastern seaboard of North America, geological changes are also causing land to sink, intensifying the flood-inducing effects of the rising ocean. Farmers in these coastal areas need solutions to prevent saltwater intrusion into irrigation systems where it can cause crop mortality and soil damage. One potential solution is the installation of “living shorelines”. In contrast with traditional shoreline stabilization measures, such as seawalls, new approaches have been developed that incorporate natural features to reduce erosion and create habitat; these methods are known as living shorelines and incorporate ecological principles into engineering design.

    Projects are usually implemented at the water-land interface with two complementary goals. The first is to stem erosion that can lead to a rapid loss of the marsh surface bringing salt water back to farms and forests. The second is to accelerate sediment accretion to assist the marsh in keeping pace with sea level rise and thus reduce flooding. Construction materials are usually biodegradable, such as coir and native plants. Implementation costs are comparable or less than hard structures and require annual maintenance as one might need to maintain any other living landscape. Researchers are actively validating how and where living shorelines may be effective alternatives.

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  • by Chris Miller, USDA NRCS

    Sea level continues to rise at an increasing rate due to climate change. This is especially noticeable in the Mid-Atlantic States where agricultural producers in near coastal areas are more frequently dealing with salt water flooding from coastal storms. This presentation will expose participants to several short term and viable longer term practices to deal with this issue. Some methods to be discussed include adding appropriate soil amendments, implementing possible cultivation techniques, establishing riparian buffers, and selecting alternative salt-adapted crops and conservation plantings. Participates will learn about potential planting and field management options for agricultural producers impacted by salt water flooding and the possible value-added income opportunities that may result in these conservation plantings.

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  • by Gulnihal Ozbay, Delaware State University

    From Delaware State University, Gulnihal Ozbay spoke on oyster populations which have decreased by more than 95% due to diseases and over-harvesting. As a keystone species in the Mid-Atlantic estuaries, Eastern oyster populations are struggling to rebound to sustainable numbers. Agriculture and sedimentation are the major contributors of pollution in Delaware Inland Bays. The pollution threatens population density and oyster survival. Current oyster populations are not suficient to make impacts on the water quality and ecosystem roles we expect them to provide. There is potential to better manage the ecosystem health of the Delaware Inland Bays through large-scale aquaculture operations.

    Oyster reefs can be used for erosion control. There are some initial costs, but the potential economic gains of oyster aquaculture may outweigh the costs when you include ecosystem services. Promoting oyster aquaculture in Delaware Inland Bays to remove nutrients and improve water clarity will enhance the natural spat population and further oyster growth. Further investigation on water quality and aquaculture techniques will ensure the successful outcome of this long-term program.

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  • Concurrent Session 3 | Plants and Soils
  • by John Bombardiere, West Virginia State University Extension Institute [now at Rutgers University]

    In West Virginia, the warmer average temperatures in late winter and late autumn as a result of climate change offer both challenges and opportunities for vegetable growers. The emergence of farm to school programs and increased demand for local produce has expanded markets for growers beyond traditional wholesale and retail outlets. As crops such as tomatoes and peppers continue to be harvested up to and beyond Thanksgiving in high tunnels, traditional planting schedules for fall/winter crops are disrupted. As growers plant crops sooner in the spring to take advantage of warmer temperatures and to supply more lucrative early markets, lack of pollinating insects can be a problem. The goals of the high tunnel trials at WVSU are to evaluate varieties better suited to early season high tunnel production, test alternative crop planting schedules for niche and farm to school markets, and evaluate yields for early and late season harvests. Specific crops evaluated are fall harvested trellised cantaloupe, spring harvested parthenocarpic zucchini, and winter planted garlic.

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  • by Franklin Egan, PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture

    Healthy soils must be the foundation of any farm’s strategy to adapt to a changing climate, and farmers need a clear understanding of the status of their soil resources to manage for the future. The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) is working to document and improve soil health outcomes through a farmer-led, citizen science model. In 2017, we worked with 29 organic and no-till farms across Pennsylvania to quantify soil health using field samples and farm records for practices including cover cropping and reduced tillage. We found that these farmers increased organic matter an average of 1.9 times over NRCS ratings for their soil types, maintained living cover on their fields an average of 237 days, and obtained average soil health scores of 80, an “optimal” score in the Cornell Comprehensive Assessment of Soil Health.

    We also found that many farmers were able to maintain high soil health scores and organic matter levels while continuing to use intensive tillage practices, although aggregate stability levels were typically lower on these farms. Within this sample, we found several examples of very high performing farms, where soil health scores were above 80 and organic matter was as much as 2.6 times higher than ratings for their soil types. We have been featuring these leading farmers in field days and workshops that use these data to guide discussions and collaboratively generate new ideas for improving soil health.

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  • by Rakesh Chandran, West Virginia University

    Field experiments were established to determine the Growing Degree Days (GDD10C) required for the germination of Arthraxon hispidus (Thunb.) Makino (joint-head Arthraxon, small carpetgrass, joint-head grass), a warm-season C4 grass, considered to be an invasive weed in certain pastures of the Appalachian region. The experiments were conducted in an established permanent cool-season pasture near Lost Creek West Virginia. The pasture contained over 75% cover of well-established jointhead Arthtraxon. The forage species in the pasture included Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea), orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata), red clover (Trifolium pretense), and white clover (Trifolium repens).

    The first experiment was initiated on January 1, 2016 and the second experiment was initiated on January 1, 2017. Weather data were collected from a nearby meteorological station to calculate growing degree days. In 2016, based on the Julian calendar, two- to three-leaf seedlings of jointhead Arthtraxon gerimination were recorded when GDD28C reached 207, and during the second year, the same stage of jointhead Arthtraxon seedlings were recorded when GDD10C reached 217. The pre-emergence herbicide pendimethalin applied a week prior to germination of jointhead Arthtraxon provided effective control of this weed. Based on these observations, timing of pendimethalin application when GDD10C approaches 200 is expected to control this weed successfully in a cool-season pasture.

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  • by Jim Kinsel, Farmer, Honey Brook Organic Farm, Pennington, NJ

    With over 30 years experience farming organically in New Jersey (both as a tenant and farmland owner), Jim Kinsel, shares his observations on the ways in which growing conditions have been changing during that time. He speaks on what he and his staff are doing to sequester carbon on his four farms now, the mitigation strategies both planned for and adopted and briefly touches on some additional practices the farm could adopt if funds were not a limiting factor.

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  • Concurrent Session 3 | Dairy and Livestock
  • by Heather Karsten, Pennsylvania State University

    For eight years, we have been evaluating diversified, conservation dairy cropping systems designed to produce all of the forage, feed and some fuel for an averaged-sized PA dairy farm, while minimizing environmental impacts. The cropping systems management practices include no-till, manure injection, double-cropped winter and summer annual crops, perennials, cover crops, and IPM. Compared to typical PA dairy cropping systems, results thus far indicate that the conservation cropping systems can produce almost all of the feed and forage and reduce off-farm fertilizer, energy and pesticide inputs.

    In addition, given NE climate change projections, cropping systems that integrate winter annual and perennials crops take advantage of projected extended spring and fall growing seasons; increase land and seasonal manure application nutrient utilization; and distribute crop production risks over multiple seasons. Continuous crop coverage; and soil and nutrient conservation practices can also reduce soil and nutrient losses associated with increased winter rain, snowmelt, and extreme precipitation events. As climate change progresses, new site-specific crops, hybrids and management practices can also provide additional strategies for resilience to climate change.

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  • by Jennifer Wightman, Cornell University

    Society increasingly expects agriculture to produce food in a manner that maintains environmental quality. In the past, daily spreading of manure, with the potential to contaminate surface waters, was common particularly during fall or winter when crops are not growing and frozen ground increases surface runoff of nutrients to streams (Williams et al., 2011, Wightman & Woodbury 2016).

    To address water quality, manure is stored in a solid stack (less often) or in a liquid storage facility (more often) for many months so manure can be spread on dates closer to when crops can take up the nutrients, reducing the potential for pollution of surface and groundwater. However, liquid manure storage for water quality increases greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from dairy farms. Climate change in the northeast includes extreme weather events that can cause these storages to overflow causing new water quality issues.

    This talk will provide insight in how manure management can adapt to changing conditions while maintaining water quality and mitigating climate change. We have developed a range of outreach materials based on our research on climate change mitigation and adaptation opportunities for farms and forests in general.

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  • by Alex Depillis, VT Agency of Agriculture, Biogas Systems

    While Vermont dairy farmers are mitigating greenhouse gas emissions with manure digesters, the main effect, both real and perceived, is to generate profit and to improve water quality. Farmers and dairy industry service professionals typically frame and name climate adaptions as side benefits rather than as anything related to climate, all the same digesters are helping dairy farmers adapt to changes in climate in subtle yet powerful ways. Meanwhile, dairy farmers face financial and regulatory pressure, and are aware they might be able get money from financial markets to destroy greenhouse gases and to sequester carbon in soils. However, the pressures are immediate and the markets nascent.

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  • by Lucia Huebner, Farmer, Beech Tree Farm, Hopewell, NJ

    Since 1986, we have owned and raised cattle on our farm. In 2006, after we learned about the benefits of grass fed beef for human, animal and environmental wholeness we started farming full time and selling our meats directly to people from a farm store on our farm and at farm markets. We practice rotational grazing. As the cattle are rotated from field to field their manure decomposes and enriches the soil. Our animals have an unlimited supply of fresh water from well water and have access to minerals. Our fields are essentially large soil panels and act as carbon sinks. We have another 53 acre farm in a neighboring township where we raise hay to feed our animals in the winter. We have worked with the Natural Resource Conservation Service to employ best conservation practices such as controlling storm water runoff through animal paddocks, building a vernal pond for amphibious habitat and educational pasture walks.

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  • Concurrent Session 3 | Fruits and Vines
  • by Gordon Johnson, University of Delaware

    Gordon Johnson focuses on how farmers can combat climate change in Delaware. He discusses topics such as: heat tolerance in strawberries and blackberries; mitigating heat via different mulches; and growing hybrid grapes and highbush blueberries. As extreme weather conditions become more prevalent, farmers will need a better understanding of how climate change will affect their operation and the things they can do to help protect their farm. He also discusses how farmers will need new varieties that have improved tolerance to worsening weather conditions.

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  • by Dan Ward, Rutgers University - New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station

    Increasing average temperatures in various wine regions is much less of a factor in current practice than adaptation to increased climate variability, especially the frequency of extreme weather events. Important climate factors influencing grape quality (e.g. growing season heat accumulation, and pre-harvest precipitation) must be considered in contrast to climate factors that limit vine survival (e.g. fluctuating winter temperatures) and crop survival (e.g. extraordinary rainfalls).

    A general strategy for adaptation is to explore the cultural practices and grape cultivars being used in higher and lower latitudes. Typical warm-climate viticultural practices being adopted in more northerly regions include selective leaf pulling in the fruit zone and selection of high heat requiring cultivars. In the mid-Atlantic there has been increased planting of high quality and high value warm-climate grape cultivars, but these cultivars must possess the ability to withstand a wider range of climate fluctuations. Cool-climate viticultural practices which have been implemented farther south include the hilling-up of soil to protect graft unions, and the retaining of excess fruiting wood and structural wood to compensate for losses from freeze injury. The planting of cool-climate cultivars in those climates capable of producing warm-climate cultivars is limited due to the higher prices commanded by most warm-climate cultivars.

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  • by Pam Mount, Farmer, Terhune Orchards, Lawrence, NJ

    Terhune Orchards in Lawrence, New Jersey produces apples, peaches, cherries, wine grapes, as well as many types of berries. This talk will provide some lessons about how we are addressing climate change on our family farm in the context of these fruits and vines.

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  • by Glen Koehler, University of Maine

    Weather-based decision support provides many benefits for agricultural producers. Those models require a source for weather data input. Operating on-farm weather stations incurs expenses to buying and maintain equipment as well as data transmission. It also requires management time and expertise which are often not available. As a result, data continuity and quality from on-farm weather stations can be inadequate or inefficient. NOAA has increased resolution, access and the quality of gridded weather data. These data are derived from input acquired from high quality, professionally maintained weather instruments to create virtual set of values for every other point between station locations. Those values are adjusted for topography and meteorological influences. With increased grid resolution, the distance between grid points is now down to 3 km, which is sufficient to accurately represent site-specific conditions for variable such as temperature, relative humidity, and solar radiation that tend to have high uniformity over the range of multiple grid cells.

    This also applies to precipitation from large scale fronts. More locally specific variables such as summer precipitation from convective storms is less reliable from gridded vs. on-site station measurements. Anecdotal experience and formal evaluation have found that gridded data can replace site-specific station data without negatively affecting output from decision support analysis. The advantages of NOAA gridded weather data have been constrained by the technical expertise needed to create automated scripts to acquire them. With funding from the USDA Northeast Climate Hub, automated scripts to do that are now available.

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  • Climate Learning Network
  • by Dan Geller, Climate Learning Network

    The eXtension Climate Learning Network (CLN) is a USDA funded, national network of Extension Professionals who work together on climate issues. The goal of the CLN is to help facilitate connecting the resources of the Climate Hubs with Cooperative Extension programs throughout the country. The CLN develops electronic learning resources for Extension personnel focused on climate adaptation and resilience. The CLN also works with the Climate, Forests, Woodlands Community of Practice to provide climate adaptation resources to natural resource Extension agents and forestry professionals. The CLN works directly with USDA-NIFA Coordinated Agricultural Projects to connect Extension to the resources developed in these multi-institutional projects. The CLN has developed a Climate Literacy Certification program for Extension Professionals that is located at eXtension, Cooperative Extension’s national online resource.

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  • Developing a Community of Practice
  • by Mike Hoffman, Cornell University and Larry Lenton, Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada

    On October 17, 2017, 47 invited individuals representing federal and local government, universities, non-government organizations and private sector interests gathered at the Cross-Border Syracuse Workshop on: Adaptation to Climate Change; Information and Tools for Decision Making. As we know climate impact affects similarly across geo-political borders and an information exchange on the subject matter among the two countries can prove to be beneficial.

    Planners from this workshop wanted more than information exchange from the participants; there was an additional commitment towards working on collaborative project ideas. We understood collaborations can reap greater rewards than working it alone and therefore the workshop proceedings captured not only the information, but also the collaboration activities among participants. The day and half event covered the following three themes: extreme weather events affecting soil erosion and nutrient loss; climate change impacts on increased pressures from pest and diseases; and a session on weather and climate decision support tools. Twelve on-line tools were presented in a tools café in support of farm manager’s decisions.

    So how successful was the event? Of the 47 people attending, 33 completed a survey and 77% reported it was useful and 20% found the event extremely useful. In addition, 92% of the respondents indicated that they would use the information in their work. Important to note the planning committee’s work was not done when the last person left the workshop, since we continue to follow up on those participants’ commitments and by doing so continue to build upon our community of practice around the workshop’s three session themes.

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New Brunswick, NJ

Project Status


Project Lead


Delaware State University, Rutgers University