Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change Using Cover crops and No-till

Proposed by: James Hoorman

Presenter: Hoorman, J., Cover Crops, Ohio State University Extension, Ottawa, OH 45875

Agricultural management needs to adapt to climate changes due to increases in greenhouse gasses of carbon dioxide (393 ppb), methane (1850 ppb) and nitrous oxide. USDA-SARE (2012) reports indicate that atmospheric moisture will increase thirteen percent from July-August with approximately ten percent increase in total moisture in the Midwest. However; the intensity, duration, and the number of rainfall events are also expected to increase with a five-fold increase in high precipitation events; leading to increased soil erosion, and water and nutrient runoff. Nighttime temperatures are projected to increase along with increased winter nighttime low temperatures. The projected results are increased frequency of major floods, droughts, and a longer growing season. Cover crops and no-till farming are management practices that allow farmers to adapt to these climate changes. Soil Organic matter (SOM) decreases summer and increases winter soil temperatures. The Ohio Agronomy Guide, 13th edition shows that water infiltration increases four-fold when the soil surface has 80 percent soil residue cover versus none. A one percent increase in SOM results in 0.5 to 0.8 inches increased water storage capacity per foot of soil (Hudson, 1994). Crop residue and plant cover decreases soil erosion and nutrients losses. A CTIC (2013) farmer survey (N=150) shows that cover crops yields increased 5 to 10 percent over no cover fields and increased resiliency to poor weather conditions. SOM buffers changes in soil temperature, increases infiltration and water holding capacity, buffer pH and cation ion exchange capacity, and serves as a reservoir for soil nutrients.

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