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    Weather Conditions Present Risks for Agriculture

    By Erin Cassidy, AccuWeather staff writer
    August 05, 2014, 5:46:30 AM EDT

    Agriculture, livestock and seafood generate at least 200 billion dollars in the United States economy each year. Although there have been improvements to increase crop yields and advances in agricultural technology, food production remains highly dependent on climate. Solar radiation, temperature and precipitation are the main factors influencing crop growth. The frequency and intensity of weather events significantly affect crop productivity and health:


    High temperatures cause some crops to grow more quickly, but grains that grow faster don’t have the time to mature, reducing yields. High temperatures can also cause seedling death—for example, soil temperatures over 95 degrees Fahrenheit kill soybean seedlings.

    Drought causes water stress in crops, diminishing healthy growth in plants and altering their ability to fight parasites and pests. Flowering, pollination and grain filling can also be affected by water stress. Droughts followed by heavy rains reduce the soil’s ability to absorb water, increasing the potential for flooding.

    Flooding can cause water contamination, damage crops, increase susceptibility to disease, and kill seedlings in crops such as corn and soybean. Heavy rains and excessive water cause crop yield declines due to waterlogging. Heavy rain can also hurt younger plants and cause soil erosion. High precipitation paired with high temperatures increases weed, fungi and pest infestation

    Wildfires can spread quickly and devastate agricultural land, burning crops and affecting soil fertility.

    High humidity, frost and hail affect yield and the quality of the quality of fruits and vegetables.

    Hurricanes produce violent winds, heavy rains, large waves and flooding. The impacts on agriculture are similar to those from flooding: water contamination, damage to crops and infrastructure, among others.

    Farmers are used to dealing with a certain amount of risk on a daily basis when it comes to variability in weather conditions; however, climate change increases that variability and introduces uncertainty into agricultural production. Climate change has increased the frequency and severity of some extreme events such as droughts, flooding and heat waves, challenging farmers and ranchers across the globe. The damages and challenges are seen both at a small scale (subsistence farmers) and a large scale (industrial producers). In the United States, some farmers are adopting mitigation strategies that include acquiring crop insurance, diversifying crops and field locations, investing in irrigation systems and diversifying household livelihood activities.

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