Agri-Musings: Plant response to Climate Change?

Fascinating stuff!

Plants take in CO2 for photosynthesis through the stomata (pores) on their leaves and they respire Oxygen. But, when stomata open, water is transpired (lost). Higher levels of CO2 means that the photosynthesis is more efficient and the stomata don’t have to stay open as long. Therefore, plants transpire less water and become much more efficient at managing drought under climatic conditions (i.e. high CO2) that contribute to climate change.

It is just one study. But, hopefully, more work will be done. Because these findings potentially could change some of the climate change models for agriculture

Climate Chans has Less Impact on Drought than Previously Expected. University of California, Irvine. August 29, 2016.

Agri-Musings: Oranges and a Changing Frost Line

Consider the Orange. Now Consider the Orange in Texas. 

You may think, there’s not an orange industry in Texas, is there? Well, not now. 

The Texas Handbook tells us that the first orange tree was planted by Spaniards in the 1700s on a ranch north of Edinburg, Texas.

In the 1800s  on the Sabine River, along the eastern Shores of the Texas Gulf Coast, orange trees were grown.

As early as 1910 “Oranges and satsumas, many from trees imported from Japan, were produced along the Texas coast in fairly large quantities… when 42,384 orange trees produced 10,695 boxes of oranges.

However, by 1925, all citrus production was gone from the Texas Coast.

Today, wonderful grapefruits are grown in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, but all that remains of commercial orange production on the coast is the name: Orange County, Texas with the county seat in the city of Orange, Texas.

So, what happened? In general, the orange trees were wiped out by a series of periodic frosts.

When I lived in Houston in the 1990s, I heard an anecdote that the Texas frost line has incrementally dropped southward since the 1800s. That certainly seems to be the case as periodic freezes have occurred further south and with more frequency and severity over the past century.

Upon reflection of this example of the failed orange industry in Texas or new growing opportunities for grapes on the East coast, it may be that cropping patterns are influenced by both sufficiency and extremes. Crops need sufficient water, nutrients, tilth, sunlight, air, chilling hours and/or heat units to thrive and produce an abundant crop. Crops also need an absence of extremes such as drought, heat, freezes, early frosts or deluges in order to thrive in a certain geography.

As growing conditions are altered, and plants become more or less productive, then, cropping patterns will shift as well. And new technologies will be developed. Where and how crops are grown will evolve. While change is scary for the businessman and his investors, it is a pervasive and fascinating aspect of agriculture. Agriculture is a gamble that an individual grower or an industry will be able to adapt to change, seize opportunity, and solve problems better and faster than a competing grower or market. Viva La Ag!

Food: Have we reached ‘peak food’?

This was a thought-provoking article. (I started to say it provided food for thought…).

New research finds that the supply of 21 staples, such as eggs, meat, vegetables, and soybeans is already beginning to run out of momentum, while the global population continues to soar.

Peak chicken was in 2006, while milk and wheat both peaked in 2004 and rice peaked way back in 1988, according to new research from Yale University, Michigan State University and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Germany.

Is this alarmist propaganda or are these trends real? I don’t know. 

However, it would b great if we, in the U.S., would learn to appreciate our food abundance and not take it for granted. And we need to constantly be seeking innovations extend that abundance to others. 

Bawden, Tom. Have We Reached “Peak Food”? Shortages Loom as Global Production Rates Slow. Independent, January 28, 2015.

Reposted from February 1, 2015, Facebook Post

Climate Change and Pest Management

At the October 2014 CAPCA Conference, a presenter predicted impacts of climate change on invasive pest management. She stated that invasive species are expected to move 1.9 kilometers away from the equator or up in altitude. Also, insect life cycles are expected to change from 2 to 5-10 life cycles in a season. We can also expect to see pest infestations become much less predictable as insect movement is erratic and life cycles are disrupted. Additionally, she discussed that climate change is expected to reduce plant nutrition, which, in turn, means that insects will need to feed more in order to sustain life. 

Additional stats: 

  • Pre-1989, California acquired 6 new invasive species per year.
  • Post-1989, California acquires 10 new invasive species per year.
  • Invasive species cost the US about $138 billion per year.
  • Invasive species cost CA > $34 billion per year.