Maryland Climate-Smart Agriculture Project

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Farm field flooded after rain

By Terry Nuwer, Maryland Climate-Smart Agriculture Project Coordinator

The Maryland Climate-Smart Ag Project is moving forward with a wide-ranging and farmer-centered research project that will produce information for the state’s agriculture to remain viable with predicted climatic changes.

Grant funding was awarded to a project team co-led by Dr. Adel Shirmohammadi and Dr. Lars Olson, both of the University of Maryland, with the proposal “Science and Technology Based Approach to Minimize Climate Vulnerability and Achieve Sustainable and Resilient Food Production Systems in Maryland.”

A team of about a dozen researchers and extension specialists with diverse expertise in crop and animal production systems, soil science, water resources and hydrology, climatology and agricultural resource economics from three different state institutions (UMD, University of Maryland Eastern Shore and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science) will partner with the Hughes Center on this project. 

The project team will assemble historical climate data and develop models to predict climate change effects on Maryland agriculture. This information will be used to forecast specific impacts on agricultural production systems throughout the state. Additionally, researchers will compile information on how a changing climate will impact crop yields, animal heat stress, potential new pests (weeds, insects and pathogens) and other production factors. Water resource management, best management practices for conservation and risk assessment for crop insurance are just a few of the other areas to be covered.

Let’s take a look at some examples: Orchards in Montgomery County, in the past, had a predictable growing season, varieties that work best there, and a known panel of insect and disease pests normally expected in a given year. But things have been changing. Milder winters, unpredictable spring temperatures and rains, and later frosts have changed their harvest dates and pest treatment schedules.  

Models and tools developed under this project will provide the orchard growers with guidelines they can use as they plan for future seasons. New fruit varieties that grow better and produce throughout a longer growing season, along with new cultural techniques to manage crop health and prevent pests, will allow the grower to plan out labor costs and new markets for the product and manage their liability and risk.

Poultry growers on the Eastern Shore will deal with increasing average daily temperatures during the warmer seasons which may lead to great heat stress on birds and increased energy costs. Knowledge gained by this project will allow growers to plan for increased energy needs with more energy-efficient equipment and cooling methods for their birds. 

Producer input is another unique aspect of this project. Over the next year, producers in each agricultural sector will be sought out for their observations, questions and ideas. You can stay updated with the Maryland Climate-Smart Ag Project on our website and Facebook page, where you will find information about members of the project research team, exciting news releases and upcoming events.

You can also sign up for email updates here. In addition, as outreach for this project ramps up, you will receive invitations to attend open-ended listening sessions to discuss your questions and ideas. Or contact Project Coordinator Terry Nuwer at

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Update: April 2023

By Terry Nuwer, Maryland Climate-Smart Agriculture Project Coordinator

There’s a joke in Maryland: If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.

But it doesn’t seem to be such a laughing matter for most producers anymore. Given the generally mild winter most of Maryland just had and fruit trees blooming almost a month early this spring, most producers now recognize that weather patterns are changing. “Dump-and-dry” rainfall results in more erosion and runoff in sloped areas, while flatter elevations have more water standing in the fields. Longer periods of drought have more producers seeking irrigation strategies to balance their water needs. For heat-sensitive crops, using shade cloth and high tunnels is under consideration, which allows those crops to be produced for the entire growing season during higher-than-average temperatures. Some livestock producers have seen higher incidences of foot rot and rain rot.

Project Coordinator Terry Nuwer will contact Maryland’s producers over the next year to ask for insight. For example, what difficulties do producers find in their operations? Is there any research that would help overcome the issues that arise on their farm because of changing climatic conditions? What thought process do producers use when adopting new practices for their operations? 

You can sign up for email updates here or via the Maryland Climate-Smart Ag website or Facebook. In addition, as outreach for this project ramps up, you will receive invitations to attend open-ended listening sessions to discuss your questions and ideas. 

You will also receive key information related to how various sectors of Maryland agriculture are considering new crop varieties, integrated pest management strategies, funding options, field research projects and policy ideas to advance resiliency.

Whether you own a vineyard in Frederick County, manage an oyster hatchery in Dorchester County, operate an equine facility in Cecil County, run a produce operation in St. Mary’s County, or produce hay in Garrett County, changing conditions will affect you.

Help us to help you. Join the conversation.

Climate Resiliency Assessment Released

In response to a request from state lawmakers, the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology, Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Maryland Department of the Environment has released a Study in Preparation for a Maryland Agriculture Climate Vulnerability Assessment

This study in preparation for a full assessment is the first step in addressing and mitigating impacts from climate change on Maryland’s top industry, agriculture.

The 2021 General Assembly Joint Chairmen’s Report requested the Hughes Center work with the Maryland Department of Agriculture and Maryland Department of the Environment to prepare a study in preparation for a full climate vulnerability assessment for Maryland Agriculture. The three entities worked with a Project Leadership Team that includes the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Chesapeake Bay Commission, University of Maryland (UMD) College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, UMD Extension, USDA Northeast Climate Hub, and a farming stakeholder in order to complete this report. The resulting study released this February is a roadmap that details what is known about climate impacts to Maryland agriculture, who is impacted, and what resources are needed for a full assessment.

The climate around the world is changing and the rate of change is accelerating. Maryland farmers have already seen impacts from climate change, and are expected to continue to experience impacts like warmer nighttime temperatures, changes in precipitation, and the emergence of invasive species, pests and weed pressure. The full vulnerability assessment will include reviews and analysis of recent research, identification of future research needs, robust stakeholder engagement to ensure our farmers’ needs are being met, and identification of agriculture response strategies that improve resilience and mitigate climate change impacts. 

The vulnerability assessment will have broad impacts beyond the scope of farming’s resiliency. The assessment process as recommended can help ensure a lasting economic impact on Maryland. Consider other sectors ancillary to agriculture, like transportation, international trade, or land use, and their reliance on a strong agricultural system — a resilient agricultural community can elevate the sectors that rely on it. The full assessment can also create new opportunities to meet the state’s overall climate goals. The ecosystem services provided by farmers as a result of the full assessment could help Maryland meet goals found in efforts such as the Watershed Implementation Plan, the 2030 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act Plan, or the Plan to Adapt to Saltwater Intrusion and Salinization. A Maryland investment in a full vulnerability assessment will assist in positioning the state for additional federal funding opportunities.