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Focus on Croplands in the Southeast

Climate Impacts

Higher temperatures can reduce agricultural yields, and changes in precipitation timing and amount can cause short-term crop failures and long-term production declines. Climate change brings increased crop stress from disease, insects, and weeds. Climate variability causes greater temperature fluctuations that can damage crops. Crop yields may be reduced by summer heat stress for corn, cotton, peanut, rice, and soybeans across the South. Fruit trees and bushes may suffer due to reductions in required chilling periods.

Adaptive Management

Existing management strategies and tools can help producers adapt to climate change and variability and reduce risks associated with climate-related stress. Conservation tillage can increase water available to plants and also reduce soil water loss through evaporation, reduce erosion and runoff, and mitigate daily temperature fluctuations. High-residue cover crops can protect against high-intensity rainfall events, droughts, and extreme soil temperatures. Cover crops also reduce soil water evaporation and soil erosion. Crop diversity with short and long rotations can mitigate risk by avoiding disaster periods.

Microirrigation is highly efficient and decreases the risk of water supply shortages, reduces pest problems, and protects small crops from freezes. Variable-rate nitrogen management improves nitrogen-use efficiency, which can increase yields during dry conditions, protect surface and ground water quality, and also reduce fertilizer costs (which account for as much as 15% of total farm costs for cotton, corn, and wheat in the southeastern US). Using animal manures as on-farm sources of nutrients can build soil fertility, alleviate soil quality decline, and reduce purchase costs. These soil protection measures mean sustained productivity and potential for improved carbon sequestration. In many cases, government cost-share programs are available to defray equipment costs and other purchases.

AgroClimate is a great resource for adaptive agricultural management, with dozens of weather and climate tools to help with on the farm decisions.