While the impact of climate change and climate variability is often discussed in terms of future effects, Michigan State University associate professor and Michigan's state climatologist Jeff Andreson and his colleagues have noticed some very real effects happening now in the agricultural industry.
"Producers of corn and soybeans in the Midwest are just faced with a very large amount of risk associated with climatic variability and, ultimately, climate change," says Andreson. "We went from an unusually cool year in 2009 to one of the warmest growing reasons on record in 2010."
That variability makes grower decisions on what seeds to plant and when very difficult and risky. Thanks to a $5 million grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture's
National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Andreson and his colleagues across 10 Midwestern universities, including the University of Michigan will be taking part in a large study in an attempt to develop tools to manage that risk.
"It's a challenge," says Andreson. "We feel that this is something that really needs to be tackled. I think there is a lot of hope that we can come up with some results that will be helpful."
MSU's contribution to the study will be Andreson's use of computer simulations to measure the impact of the weather on corn and soybean development and yield. Other components of the study include social science studies on how growers currently manage risk.
The study is currently getting underway and is set to last for five years.