On Nature: Crops and Climate

On Nature: David Voigts

If Iowa’s climate keeps changing as a result of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide from man’s activities, corn and soybean yields are predicted to decline by 39-68% and 86-92%, respectively, by 2050, according to an article in the journal Scientific Reports. Even worse, this is not the only threat to Iowa’s farmers. Ethanol production may be severely curtailed by the resistance to building pipelines that would transport carbon dioxide emitted by ethanol plants to underground reservoirs. Beyond that, there is also resistance to ethanol production because it props up fossil fuels, and growing corn can increase soil erosion and nutrient runoff that degrades water quality.

With the threats to agriculture as we know it, farmers may want to diversify crops on at least part of their lands. For example, the Red Fern Farm near Wapello grows a mixture of fruit and nut crops along with corn and soybeans. Since perennial crops can take several years before harvesting begins, it would be prudent to start diversification before crop yields or the biofuel market degrade significantly. Fortunately, this transformation may be helped by the USDA’s grant program for climate-smart commodities, the Growing Climate Solutions Act, and other federal programs. Let’s get started.

David Voigts is a retired ecologist and the current Conservation Chair for the Prairie Rapids Audubon Society. He is a Tama County native, graduating from Dinsdale High School, and lives in rural Jesup on his wife’s family farm.