This morning, in a packed room at the Indiana Corn and Soybean Innovation Center, members from the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment working group held a community briefing to release their most recent report.
The briefing went from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. with Karen Plout, Purdue Dean of Agriculture, starting things off by touching on the ways Purdue is impacting agriculture and the projects that professors are working on. Plout also went on to highlight the importance of Indiana in agriculture, noting that Indiana has made $31 billion in the sales of agriculture related products and is in the top 10 in the country in the production of ducks, eggs, turkey, soybeans, corn and hogs.
Jeffrey Dukes, director of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center and a professor at Purdue, then took to the lectern to begin talking about the report and the team that produced it. The working team itself was comprised of all Purdue University professors. One member, Benjamin Gramig, who started at Purdue, eventually went to work at the University of Illinois. Universities such as Indiana University, Ball State University and Notre Dame University were a few on a long list of contributors to the working group that helped in a variety of ways, such as co-authoring reports, reviewing assessment materials, dissemination results, and co-hosting and/or attending feedback sessions.
The specifics of the report were presented primarily by Laura Bowling, the author of the report and professor of Agronomy at Purdue. The theme and title of the report, Indiana’s Agriculture in a Changing Climate, discussed the not-so-distant future of agriculture in Indiana and how farmers will need to adapt. Some key points were the longer growing periods farmers might encounter in the future.
By mid-century, Indiana’s frost-free season is expected to start one month earlier, allowing planting to start in early February, according to the report. With a prolonged growing period and higher temps, livestock are expected to suffer. The report states that, by mid-century, the number of days above 86 degrees, a temperature that increases animals' risk of heat stress, is expected to double from 40 days per year to 80-100 days per year.
The presentation ended with a Q&A session, allowing those who attended to ask questions pertaining to the report. Hands went up with a variety of questions.
Some were specific. One attendee asked about the role of carbon dioxide in the nutrition of crops. To which Dukes gave a comprehensive response. The higher the carbon dioxide levels the less nutritious the crop, he said.
Another man was unsure of what to say to skeptics of climate change. Bowling, anticipating the question, pointed to the prolonged and observable changes the planet has seen. The date of the first freeze each year has shifted and the increased number of days farmers are able to spend in the field, she suggested.
The team is producing these “easily understandable” reports to be a go-to resource for anyone looking at Indiana climate change, whether it be researchers, educators, politicians or just someone interested in the topic. The report was the fifth from the IN CCIA, with six more still to come. Aquatic ecosystems, tourism and recreation, water, energy, infrastructure and an overall summary of the teams findings are the remaining six topics.