COLUMBUS, Ohio – The National Climate Assessment finds climate stressors, such as weeds and diseases, are threatening the future of farming.
But the report also suggests that sustainable agriculture practices could help slow the pace of climate change.
Mud Run Farm in Stark County is a small organic operation. Owner Alex Dragovich says changes of his farm’s position in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s plant hardiness zone maps indicate a shift to warmer temperatures for growing.
And he admits there have been some changes in weather patterns impacting agriculture in Ohio.
“The season went from very cold to warm in a short amount of time and then a lot of rain,” he points out. “Can I say that that’s climate change? Maybe in the long-term but not in the short-term. It’s like a chronic illness, you don’t realize you have it until it’s too late.”
Dragovich says his farm uses earth-friendly practices that reduce carbon emissions.
He’s cut back on the use of diesel fuels by powering his farm mostly with horses and also manages cover crops, which reduce the amount of tractor time needed in the fields.
The National Climate Assessment found that the resiliency of the agriculture system can be increased through sustainable methods such as diversifying crop rotations, integrating livestock with crop production systems and minimizing off-farm flows of nutrients and pesticides.
Dragovich says he’s hopeful the next farming generation embraces sustainable methods, and considers the impact agricultural practices have on the environment.
“I see a lot of young people taking up the organic mantra and trying to save this planet,” he says. “So hopefully these young people will be a little more respective of Mother Earth and hopefully will be better at it than my generation.”
Recent research found organic farming methods that encourage soil health create higher yielding crops better able to cope with weather-related stressors compared to conventional farming.