Climate Change in the Midwest: Impacts, Risks, Vulnerability, and Adaptation

By S. C. Pryor | Go to book overview

5.
Climate-Agriculture Vulnerability Assessment
for the Midwestern United States

D. NIYOGI AND V. MISHRA


introduction

The Midwest is a breadbasket for the United States and one of the major contributors of corn and soybean production globally. Current corn yields in the Midwest are around 150 bushels per acre with a total production of about 10 billion bushels, while soybean yields in the Midwest are 45 bushels per acre with production of about 3 billion bushels. Agriculture is a major enterprise requiring investments in terms of water, landscape, energy, and human/economic resources. Projected climate and land use changes can affect the dynamics and availability of soil, water, and land resources leading to food insecurity (Lobell et al. 2008). Thus the water and land required for agricultural production are vital components of the natural resources of the Midwest. Agricultural land comprises 89 percent of the land use in the Midwest, and as documented in chapter 2 of this volume, agriculture continues to play a major role in the economy of the region.

Agriculture is both a source and sink of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Photosynthesis is a significant seasonal sink, while the emissions from the soil surfaces for nitrous oxide and other gases from animal waste and fertilizers are a source term. Agriculture accounted for about 17 percent of the global GHG emissions and 7 percent of the emissions across the United States (Pryor and Takle 2009). Additionally, as documented in several chapters to follow, the agricultural sector is perhaps uniquely sensitive to climate variability and change.

The historical observations and modelbased projections indicate a tendency towards higher atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations with every passing decade accompanied by higher global temperatures (though regional manifestations may include cooling (e.g., Pan et al. 2009)). Analyses deriving from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) multimodel ensembles indicate a possibility of 1°C to 3°C warming in the midwestern United States in coming decades (see chapter 2 of this volume). Changes in future precipitation are somewhat uncertain; however, more intense rainfall or

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