Changing climate highlighted at Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference

By: Matt Reese, Ohio Ag Net

Increased rainfall in larger doses and warming temperatures in the future are likely, building on trends that have already been seen in Ohio.

The first day of the Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference included many presentations including nutrient management, crop production, water quality, technology and innovation during the event at Ohio Northern University in Ada. The role of the changing climate cannot be ignored in agriculture’s ongoing challenges with nutrient management and water quality.

“In Ohio we are seeing temperature changes and precipitation changes and some of the challenges that come with that,” said Aaron Wilson, climate specialist for Ohio State University Extension, at the Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference in Ada. “From a climate standpoint we are warming. Our winters are warming faster than our summers, though our warmest maximum summer temperatures have actually gone down compared to the early 20th Century.”

The warmer temperatures can have implications for crops and livestock.

“On the livestock issue, the one thing we have seen in the summer is that we have warmer nights and longer periods of warmer temperatures that can really stress livestock,” Wilson said.

In terms of precipitation, Ohio receives 10% more rain per year, on average, than in the 20thcentury. Ohio’s current annual average is 42 inches, up 3 inches from the 39-inch average in the 20th century, Wilson said. Those additional 3 inches aren’t spread across the entire year. Instead the bulk of Ohio’s rain is falling in intense rain events, followed by an increase in consecutive dry days, Wilson said.

“On the precipitation side we are seeing extreme rain events increasing in number. We are seeing issues then with runoff, soil erosion and nutrient loss across the state,” he said. “And it is very difficult to forecast the extreme precipitation events. When you are trying to make sound management decisions on your farm this is a big challenge. By their nature we know these rain events are highly variable.”

The most significant seasonal increase in rainfall for Ohio has been in the autumn months, though springs are also wetter.

“Soil erosion compaction, soil health, organic matter, and runoff are all being impacted by precipitation,” Wilson said. “Also water availability throughout the year can affect practices like double-cropping, crop rotations, and other management. We need to think about these things to be prepared for the changes we are going to see.”

Extreme rain events in which more than 2 inches fall during a rainstorm have increased by 30% in Ohio since the late 1990s, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“Weather patterns have changed so we can’t just take it for granted that what we did in the past will work well now and into the future,” Wilson said. “The more we understand how our weather is changing, the better we can be about adapting to these changes and making decisions now and into the future in agriculture.”

For more information about the conference, visit: fabe.osu.edu/CTCon.

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