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Global Change and Climate
One of the most pressing issues faced by plant and animal producers is to adapt to the ever-changing conditions and impacts of global change and climate on their crops or animals. Another critical issue is the need for scientific information that producers can use to plan and make decisions to ensure economic viability. NIFA-supported global change and climate projects are addressing these issues through research, extension, and education activities.

Historical plant and animal production levels point toward some impact from climate or environmental change. Producers must determine how to use global change and climate-related information to remain profitable and conserve resources. Related decisions involve species type; cultivar or breed; planting or breeding time; tillage, feeds and fertilization; pesticide or vitamin application; irrigation; harvests; storage; and marketing. All these factors must adapt in one form or another or be chosen with respect to changes in the environment brought about by global change and climate parameters. Scientific information on global change and climate and their impacts on soils, water, and air; plant and animal biology; and the general environment will produce robust simulation models to provide guidance on the relative benefits and outcomes associated with agronomic decisions.

Current NIFA-funded weather and climate projects focus on determining the effects of global change and climate on land-based systems and the global carbon cycle and on identifying agricultural and forestry activities that can help reduce greenhouse gas concentrations. Research can help identify, describe, and quantify processes involved in the cycling of organic and inorganic carbon in soil.

Global change extension programs focus on technologies and practices to reduce carbon in the atmosphere and risk management practices to anticipate natural and human impacts on agricultural ecosystem dynamics. Education and extension activities provide robust scientific information for learning and decision support systems for citizens and public officials to evaluate the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of policy options for sustainable resource management.

For example NIFA supports research to determine the influence of irrigation practices and water management on carbon storage in land-based systems. Irrigation schedules and best practices are then communicated to stakeholders for implementation. Contributions from NIFA research programs include new tools to accurately measure greenhouse gases; methods for measuring and estimating carbon in ecosystems at different scales; and effective ways to sustain productivity in a changing environment. Methods of reducing carbon dioxide or methane emissions are then taught to industry professionals and education specialists to achieve national goals for greenhouse gas reductions.

For a holistic approach to global change and climate issues, activities should be integrated, involving research, education and extension. This brings together the natural sciences, engineering, mathematics, business, social and political sciences, economics, and education to achieve a system science view of agricultural and forestry production and sustainability. This approach seeks to provide reliable information for regional and national decisionmakers.

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