Background: In the 2022 Maryland legislative session, the Governor’s supplemental budget provided $500,000 for the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology to perform the Climate Vulnerability Assessment for Maryland Agriculture. This vulnerability assessment, estimated to take two years to complete, comes after a study in preparation for the full assessment was requested by the legislature the prior year. The Study In Preparation for a Maryland Agriculture Climate Vulnerability Assessment provides an overview of the current state of Maryland agriculture and the issues related to climate change producers are currently facing and are expected to face in the future. The development of this study included engagement with stakeholders like farmers and technical service providers to gain an understanding of what impacts they are currently experiencing in agriculture operations. The study also provides a roadmap for the development of a full-scale climate vulnerability assessment for Maryland agriculture.
Maryland is experiencing warmer nighttime temperatures, changes in precipitation, the emergence of invasive species and pests, and other climate-induced adverse conditions. These have the potential to significantly affect agriculture, the agricultural economy, and farming communities. A climate vulnerability assessment of Maryland agriculture is needed to develop strategies that will lead to improvements in policies and programs that support the farming industry’s resiliency over time, mitigate impacts and provide environmental benefits and ecosystem services to Maryland. It will position Maryland and the state’s top industry to prepare and adapt to issues resulting from changing climatic conditions.
Maryland Climate-Smart Agriculture Project: Have Your Say
Are you seeing the impacts of more extreme weather patterns on agriculture operations in Maryland? A new survey released by the Hughes Center in support of the Maryland Climate-Smart Agriculture Project (MDCSA) aims to capture this information and more.
If you are a Maryland farmer, waterman, shell stock producer, technical service provider or Extension agent, we invite you to participate in the survey.
The Maryland Climate-Smart Agriculture Project (MDCSA) is farmer-focused, bringing together producers, technical service providers, researchers, organizations, and policymakers to develop and share science-based strategies and techniques. The MDCSA aims to ensure that Maryland farms and farmers can adapt to changing conditions and remain resilient and profitable in the future as it continues to see increased weather-related impacts from factors like heavy rains, extended dry periods and extreme temperature shifts.
MDCSA is coordinated by the University of Maryland’s Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology, located at the Wye Research and Education Center. Project Coordinator Terry Nuwer will connect with agricultural stakeholders throughout Maryland with a survey at grower meetings and trade shows to gain their input regarding their on-farm observations related to changing weather and environmental conditions.
Your input as a farmer, waterman, shell stock producer, technical service provider, Extension agent, value chain partner, or part of a trade organization in this survey is needed. Whether the farm is above or below water, under covering or out in the soil, in a mountain forest or the coastal plains, a six-house broiler farm or an equine operation, each voice matters. Producers are encouraged to pose questions, suggest ideas for research and farm demonstrations, and identify their decision-making process for adopting new practices for their operations.
The survey will be available electronically or in person, on paper and tablet. You can access the survey HERE, but you can contact Terry Nuwer at firstname.lastname@example.org for a print-ready copy. Taking the survey enters you into a giveaway for a chance to win one of ten $100 Amazon gift cards
Work To Date: The project’s research team — comprising a dozen Maryland scientists working in the climate science and agriculture space — is simultaneously examining current climate research pertaining to Maryland agriculture. They will identify gaps in our knowledge along with their development of climate models and simulations with a resolution to the county level and projections of climate-related impacts on farming practices, pest and pathogen management, environmental justice, agricultural markets, and other factors. Your input will play a key role in identifying these knowledge gaps.
The project is guided by a leadership team composed of farmers, academics, government, NGO representatives, and value chain partners. When our final report is submitted to the Maryland legislature in June of 2024, our goal is that producers and researchers will continue to exchange information and best management practices with organizations and decision-makers to craft solutions to a sustainable and healthy future for the Maryland farmers and farms along with a healthy Chesapeake Bay.
Are you interested in being part of the conversation? Sign up for emails with surveys and the latest research, and provide your comments at lp.constantcontactpages.com/su/iDPyA50.
To learn more about the Maryland Climate-Smart Ag Project, visit go.umd.edu/MDClimateSmartAg or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HughesCenterAgroEcology. You can also contact Project Coordinator Terry Nuwer at email@example.com or 410-827-6202, ext. 8.
Maryland Climate-Smart Ag Project Research Team Reports Progress
By Terry Nuwer
Project Coordinator, Hughes Center
Research for the Hughes Center’s Maryland Climate-Smart Agriculture Project reported progress recently. This project is scheduled to deliver a final report in the summer of 2024 that details current and future potential climate-related impacts on Maryland’s agricultural systems and mitigation and response strategies for farmers that will have co-benefits to their operations and the environment.
A team of Maryland scientists covering various disciplines who work for institutions including the University of Maryland College Park, University of Maryland Eastern Shore and University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, are performing the research related to this project.
Here’s what the researchers have been working on:
In their analysis of historical climate data, researchers have found that extreme precipitation and temperature events were lower in Maryland between 1950 and 2000 compared to dates after 2000.
After 2000, an increased number of weather extremes occurred for all counties, especially the average amount of precipitation per rainfall event. From here, using historical state-wide averages of surface air temperature and total precipitation, researchers will develop simulations and projections of climate data for the next 30 to 40 years, including how each county will be impacted.
Soil Carbon: One current hot topic in climate science is questions over how effectively soil can capture and hold carbon dioxide (CO2), also termed “soil carbon sequestration.” Investigators have found that an estimated ~5.7 million metric tons of CO2 could be sequestered between the years 2021 and 2030 from agricultural lands in Maryland. This number is closely tied to specific tillage and planting practices, such as no-till and cover cropping. However, investigators will now factor in the actual impact of climate change, which, based on their models, may cause a net loss of soil CO2 under some scenarios.
Livestock: How will these changing weather patterns potentially impact animal agriculture in Maryland? Heat stress causes a loss in meat and milk production because it takes a lot of energy to cool a cow, pig, sheep, or goat’s body — that is energy that would have otherwise gone into muscle gain or producing milk. Investigators will look at how increasingly warmer summer temperatures will impact the livestock industry in Maryland with a focus on dairy cows. There is a seasonal variation in the amount of fat and protein in milk, with higher temperatures causing these amounts to drop. Forecasted temperature increases will likely impact how livestock is managed during the summer months.
Poultry: The broiler industry is not shielded from the impacts of climate change. Last year’s avian influenza outbreak was very costly and sobering for the industry that provides 48% of the market value of Maryland ag products. This outbreak resulted in the loss of over 1.7 million birds in Maryland alone. Climate change may alter the migration behavior and distribution of wild waterfowl and indirectly influence their contact with domestic poultry. Growers may also see increased heat stress for pullets and laying hens. This may result in different summer management strategies, including reducing flock sizes in the summer, dietary changes, and new broiler genetics. Broiler houses of the future may be built with more insulation and greater fan ventilation capacity to compensate for warming summer temperatures. Fuel costs in summer may be offset by lower winter fuel usage due to predicted warmer winter temperatures.
Crops: Agronomic crops like corn were significantly affected by droughts in the 1980s and 1990s, with the worst impacts for corn in Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore. Researchers will evaluate by county the impact of changing temperature and precipitation patterns on the yield of various crops.
Pests are a major part of raising animals and crops in Maryland. Scientists are investigating how each of the state’s current pests (including insects, weeds, and pathogens) will respond to climate change. Farmers could see many insects overwintering in the future that haven’t done so before as the winters become milder. This may lead to extra generations of these insects that already produce two or more generations per year. Along with our current pests, researchers will also forecast those pests south of Maryland that are most likely to spread northward.
Water: You may have seen a great increase in the number of surface irrigation systems being installed over the last several years. Since 1987, freshwater withdrawn from freshwater aquifers has increased from millions of gallons withdrawn to billions per year. With increasingly variable amounts and timing of precipitation, farmers are using the dependability of irrigation to better control the growing conditions for their crops. For the Coastal Plain areas of Maryland, the researchers will map areas where sea level rise and saltwater intrusion (SWI) are most likely to occur and how salinity will impact yields and profitability of different crops grown in this region.
The Maryland Climate-Smart Agriculture Project will provide Maryland farmers and policymakers with a set of adaptation and mitigation practices in the form of recommendations that they can use to protect and strengthen Maryland farms and farmers and ensure a sustainable food production system.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.