Douglas Jackson-Smith, the Kellogg Chair of Agroecosystem Management and a professor in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at The Ohio State University to lead Ohio portion of the investment.
This news release is adapted from Emory University’s original release here.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded $1.6 million to a collaborative team of scientists to develop improved predictive models to help farmers and policymakers in Ohio, Georgia, and Iowa better prepare for changes in weather, markets, and policies.
“We’re trying to understand how the technical, socioeconomic and political landscapes in each state will evolve,” said Douglas Jackson-Smith, Kellogg Chair of Agroecosystem Management and a professor at The Ohio State University in the CFAES School of Environment and Natural Resources, “and how those factors interact with climate change to shape what and where different crops could be grown over the next 30 to 40 years in Ohio, Georgia and Iowa.”
The grant is part of the NSF Dynamics of Integrated Socio-Environmental Systems Program (DISES). Dr. Emily Burchfield from Emory University is the principal investigator for the project, which also includes researchers from The Ohio State University, the University of Nebraska, and Arizona State University.
Conventional approaches to forecasting future cropping patterns have looked mainly at biophysical factors. In contrast, this project will engage with farmers and agricultural experts to account for ways that technological innovations, policy changes, and farmer decisions will impact future cropscapes.
“By incorporating perspectives and input from real world actors,” Jackson-Smith notes, “we will be able to improve our understanding and develop better tools to inform decision-makers.”
Throughout his career, Dr. Jackson-Smith, a social scientist, has collaborated with farmers to identify ways to improve the economic and environmental performance of agriculture. This is his first collaboration with Dr. Burchfield, whose nationally known research combines spatial-temporal social and environmental data to understand the future of food security in the United States, including the consequences of a changing climate.
With this investment the researchers will create a public, online tool to allow farmers, policymakers, and the public to explore the possible scenarios for agriculture in each state and to support their efforts to shape the future of agriculture.
A RANGE OF AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS, LANDSCAPES and OPPORTUNITIES
Ohio, Iowa and Georgia represent quite different mixes of farm commodities and future climates, which makes them a perfect test case for developing these new future cropscape forecasts.
Georgia is a leading producer of cotton, peanuts, vegetables and tree crops. While the two main crops in both Iowa and Ohio are corn and soy, Ohio’s dairy, beef, and sheep farmers also raise considerable acres of hay and forage crops that creates a more diverse landscape. There is also a growing specialty crop industry in Ohio.
“Ohio sits at the crossroads of very different agricultural systems with diverse agricultural landscapes - corn-belt crops dominant in the west and northwest, specialty crop and mixed crop and livestock agriculture in the northeast and southeast, and pasture and forest farming systems in the Appalachian southeast,” Jackson-Smith said. “We’ll be able to explore the ways that different regions of the state might be impacted by future changes in climate.”
Additionally, while temperatures are expected to rise, Ohio is predicted to see sustained rainfall required for production of most crops. This contrasts with states in the U.S. southwest and west coast, which currently produce the bulk of the nation’s produce, but face significant challenges for water availability.
BUILDING TOOLS TO SHAPE THE FUTURE OF FARMING
Through this collaborative investment, the researchers will draw from available climate, soil and land-use data to create biophysical models for how changes in climate will affect where and how particular crops can be grown. These models will be integrated with data gathered from surveys and focus groups conducted with agricultural experts, climatologists and a diverse range of farmers working the land throughout Georgia, Iowa and Ohio.
“We will be specifically asking farmers what matters most to them, what needs they have and barriers they face in sustaining their operations and adapting to climate change – their lived experience and aspirations are imperative for building better tools and adaptation strategies," Jackson-Smith said.
The public, online tool that the researchers develop will include interactive maps of cropping pattern forecasts by region. It will also provide information to guide policymakers and to help farmers adapt to the changes ahead.