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ARS Scientists Tackle California Climate Woes

Posted by Scott Elliott, Agricultural Research Service Office of Communications in Climate Research and Science
May 27, 2021
Agricultural Research Service scientists Andrew McElrone and David Knaebel stand in a California vineyard next to a solar powered monitor that maps water use to improve irrigation

A team of USDA agricultural scientists in the Golden State are helping farmers make the most out of a natural resource that is becoming ever more precious – water.

California produces two-thirds of the nation’s fruits and nuts and one-third of its vegetables, but above average temperatures and long-term drought have put a strain on the water resources it takes to grow these crops.

Most of California’s precipitation falls during the winter, which means summertime irrigation is required to produce many of the state’s crops. Higher temperatures and shifting rainfall patterns increase water demand and reduce supply. As a result, many growers use water-saving strategies like deficit irrigation (limiting water application outside of drought-sensitive growth stages) or incur the high cost of drilling deep groundwater wells.

Researchers with the USDA California Climate Hub are developing strategies and approaches to adapt California crop production to climate stressors, including extreme heat and drought. Plans include a five-step process for growers looking to improve the adaptive capacity of their operations. The California Hub and its partners have also developed fact sheets on soil health, soil amendments and carbon farming to advise growers on climate-informed agricultural practices. Another series of fact sheets explains how forests play a critical role in providing fresh air, clean water, timber and more.

The California Climate Hub is 1 of 10 USDA-supported regional centers that develop and deliver science-based, region-specific information and technologies to mitigate the effects of climate change on agriculture.

Category/Topic: Climate Research and Science

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