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UI-led Climate Project Concludes Its Mission to Help Farmers Prepare for Climate Change

February 01, 2017

Inland Northwest farmers will be better prepared to adapt to climate change as a result of a three-state, six-year, $20 million project led by the University of Idaho, the project’s director says. 

The Regional Approaches to Climate Change in Pacific Northwest Agriculture (REACCH) drew together more than 200 researchers from UI, Oregon State University and Washington State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.

The final meeting for the project is planned Feb. 9 on the UI’s Moscow campus for scientists and students who worked on the project to review the project’s findings. The project was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

“Our goal includes helping farmers understand ways that climate change will affect them so they can better anticipate those changes and adopt new practices to meet future challenges,” said project director Sanford Eigenbrode, a UI entomologist and University Distinguished Professor.

His own research within REACCH included projecting the effects of warming on cereal leaf beetles and their impacts on wheat. He also found a new aphid species that could pose problems and launched studies of its biology. Entomology was a small but integral part of the overall effort, which addressed all the technical, economic and social aspects of wheat production in the region.

The emphasis of the project was research, generating numerous refereed publications and presentations at scientific conferences on the technical aspects of climate change in grain production.

We also focused significant effort on generating and communicating immediate and near term results to farmers and the public, Eigenbrode said. 

Genesee farmer Eric Odberg hosted a stop during a precision agriculture tour sponsored by REACCH in 2015. He has changed his methods to better apply and control the amounts of nitrogen fertilizer used on his fields, a climate-friendly move that also saved him money and improved yields. Farmers will adapt to climate change, he said, and more information will help them make better decisions.

“There’s only so much you can do to prepare for it. But just think about all of the farmers in the ’30s in the dust bowl if they had had a project like this going on in the ’20s, preparing them for what was going to happen,” Odberg said. “And now we just have so much more technology on our side to do that for us. I think that is what the greatest value of this whole grant has been.”

The $20 million project focused on wheat production, but also examined implications for other crops, explored ways to limit farming’s impacts on climate change, developed new climate change education materials for K-12 students and analyzed likely pest and climatic condition changes.

Undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral researchers gained experience in their specific sciences, ways to work with others in different disciplines and strategies to build public understanding of climate change.

Farmers gained insights into how they can improve current farming practices and prepare for future changes by employing precision agriculture technologies.

One such technology that is available to farmers now employs new equipment that strips wheat kernels from the heads without cutting the straw. The harvesting method leaves more standing residue that can capture more wind-blown snow in the winter to build soil moisture, a critical change in the drier interior of the Columbia Basin.

To help farmers better see how changes could benefit their own operations, the project commissioned profile stories about how others have adopted new methods. Five profiles explore topics ranging from no-till farming methods to improve soil health, precision agriculture advances with the use of drones, adding marketing value through cooperative flour marketing by farmers who use direct seeding and precision agriculture strategies for those using conventional farming methods.

The profiles are posted online with many other project outputs at https://www.reacchpna.org/producer-profiles.

Media Contacts
Bill Loftus
Science writer, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
208-885-7694
bloftus@uidaho.edu

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 12,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky Conference. Learn more at uidaho.edu