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Winter wheat may get boost from climate change, study finds

Published on December 1, 2012 3:01AM

Last changed on December 29, 2012 7:29AM


Capital Press

HERMISTON, Ore. -- Dryland winter wheat production in the Northwest, surprisingly, may improve with climate change.

And potatoes and spring wheat, also probably will fare just fine.

Scientists are finding some surprising results two years into a five-year look at the effects of climate change on inland Northwest crop production

"What I find interesting is it is not all doom and gloom for us in the Pacific Northwest," said Steve Petrie, director of the Oregon State University Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center.

"We're unique," he said. "If you're a corn grower in Iowa, your world is probably going to change."

The study is funded by a $20 million grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Three land-grant universities, including OSU, and the USDA Agricultural Research Service are involved in the study.

The study uses an array of climate models and CropSyst, a crop model developed by a Washington State University scientist to predict how Northwest agriculture will be affected by climate change between now and 2080.

The models show an increase in precipitation and temperatures over the next 70 years and take into account an increase in carbon dioxide emissions.

Scientists involved in the study gauged wheat yields under different cropping system, including crop-fallow and annual cropping.

The models assumed good crop management.

The models didn't take into account changes in weed, disease and insect pressure, which could rise, Petrie said.

Because of warmer winters, Petrie said: "It sounds to me like we might have more diseases.

"And," he said, "we may have more insect problems. We may have more flights in the fall and more flights in the spring."

"Also," he said, "weeds could become more of a problem than they are now."

But increased rainfall in the winter and the increased carbon dioxide emissions, which serves as a plant nutrient, are expected to increase Northwest dryland winter wheat yields, he said.

Petrie's snapshot of the study's second year findings was aired at the Hermiston Farm Fair Nov. 29.

The first-year report is available online. The just-completed second-year report will be online in a couple of weeks, he said.

Despite the positive findings, Petrie said it is not all rosy for Northwest farmers. Some Northwest crops, such as apples, he said, will suffer under climate change, according to the models.


More information on the study, including the results of year-one, can be found at reacch@uidaho.edu


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