Environment
4:15 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

How Does Climate Change Affect Kentucky Farmers?

Credit Scot Bauer / USDA

The US Global Change Research Program released its third climate assessment this week, which found Kentucky farmers could continue to see rising summer temperatures and increased drought in the future.

US Department of Agriculture Midwest Hub Director Jerry Hatfield says volatile weather—large storms followed by periods of no rain—is likely to continue due to climate change.

“One of the biggest challenges that producers face, and particularly in areas like Kentucky, which is kind of a transition state between the southern states and the northern states, is we can expect increased volatility in our weather,” Hatfield said. “And probably the parameter that impacts it the most is precipitation.”

Hatfield says farmers could consider planting a variation of their crop that has a shorter growing season or use cover crops to mitigate a yield decrease.

“We’re telling producers that part of their adaptation strategies is really to improve their soil so that it can hold more water,” he said. “We’re going to have to store as much water as possible in that profile because the part of the season that’s becoming drier is that latter part of the growing season. We’re really trying to finish up the growth of that plant whether it be tobacco or corn or soybeans because that’s where the yield is made.”

The USDA Hubs were established just this February in an effort to help farmers adapt with climate change. Hatfield says the Hub is working with universities and ag extension offices to both communicate with farmers about the issues they face due to climate change and work on solutions.