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Climate change researchers reach out to ag community


Capital Press

BOISE -- Researchers working on agriculture-related climate change projects in the Pacific Northwest agreed recently that working closer with the farm community and seeking their input on the direction of projects should be one of their top goals.

The issue was the topic of a discussion among leading researchers in this region during the 3rd Annual Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference in Boise.

"The success of our project depends on us interacting effectively with farmers," said Sanford Eigenbrode, who heads a $20 million study that is looking at the impacts of climate change on wheat and barley systems in the region. "We want to be relevant to (them)."

As many as 90 scientists are working on $50 million worth of ag-related climate change projects in the region, said Chad Kruger, director of Washington State University's Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Regardless of whether farmers believe in climate change, valuable research that can help them be more efficient is being conducted and they could benefit from it, he said. But first, they have to know about it.

Producers don't have access to that information and study results because there's no one place to go to find it, Kruger said.

He said a website that at least lists all the different projects is the first step and should be ready by the end of 2012. He said scientists also plan to ask farmers and industry representatives to give them a list of the top 10 things they need from scientists so projects can be focused on the industry's main needs.

Kruger said one of the completed studies of most interest to farmers is the Columbia River Basin Water Supply and Demand Forecast, which found that water availability in some watersheds would be very affected by climate change by 2030.

A large number of other projects focused on managing dairy and livestock waste, wheat and barley systems, organic crops and water efficiency are ongoing, Kruger said, but producers could benefit now by knowing who to speak with.

He said the website will be set up so anybody can enter a question and scientists would source it to the relevant project or expert. If a grower wants to learn how to reduce his nitrogen use, he could be connected with scientists doing that research right now.

Idaho Grain Producers Association Executive Director Travis Jones said his group welcomes the increased communication effort as long as it's a two-way street and stays away from regulation.

There is a lot of apprehension among growers about the regulatory aspects of climate change, Jones said, but farmers are happy to discuss the topic as it relates to helping them be more efficient.

"Grain producers can really benefit from this research if it's done the right way and everyone is at the table looking for positive solutions," he said.

Anyone interested in learning more about the ag-related climate change research being done in the region can contact Kruger at cekruger@wsu.edu


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