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Changing climate will challenge Northeast agriculture, CU expert warns

Farmers will be the first to feel the heat from global warming as they grapple with new and aggressive crop pests, summer heat stress and other sobering challenges that could strain family farms to the limit, warns David Wolfe, a Cornell expert on the effects of climate change on agriculture.

His gloomy assessment was part of a report by the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment (NECIA) Synthesis Team, presented July 11 at a press conference at the New York Botanical Garden.

Choices made today could have profound impacts on tomorrow's agriculture and natural landscapes, he said.

In simultaneous press conferences in seven northeastern cities, the team of independent experts, in collaboration with the Union of Concerned Scientists, presented analyses of the impact of climate change on key sectors in the northeastern United States. By providing the best available science on the issue, they hope to persuade opinion leaders, policy-makers and the public to make informed choices about climate-change mitigation and adaptation.

"Today's energy and emissions choices lead to starkly different pictures of what the future holds for our farms, gardens and natural landscapes in terms of climate change impacts," said Wolfe, Cornell professor of horticulture and lead author of the NECIA agriculture chapter.

While a warmer climate will trigger a longer growing season and the opportunity to experiment with new crops, "it will also open the door to invasion by new and aggressive crop pests, damaging summer heat stress and serious challenges with water management," said Wolfe. "Adapting to change will add economic stress to family farms already stretched to the limit."

The Northeast can also expect more frequent summer heat waves that could compromise the health of crops, livestock and humans, said Wolfe. What will happen in the future, he said, depends "on whether we as a society follow the business as usual [higher] emissions scenario or begin taking a
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Contact: Blaine Friedlander
bpf2@cornell.edu
607-254-8093
Cornell University News Service
11-Jul-2007


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