COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Fall harvest is underway across the nation. In some areas, heavy spring rain, followed by drought and record heat, have impacted crop supplies, leading to rising production costs that drive up food prices.

More than 80% of the U.S. is experiencing abnormally dry conditions and nearly 60% is experiencing drought ranging from moderate to exceptional levels. The driest areas currently are in the western states and Southern Plains.

Florida agriculture suffered was dealt a severe blow by Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28. The state reported preliminary losses of $1.1 to $1.8 billion, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Citrus crops were blown down and a number of trees were damaged by flooding.

Increasingly, variable weather patterns are having a disruptive effect on grain crops such as corn and wheat. Farmers compensated by planting more crops while coping with the cost of inflation.

A joint effort by Nationwide and Ohio State University is looking to lessen the effects of climate extremes on crop yields through new science initiatives that include shifting to more indoor growing.

“We are really looking to increase and impact yield across the U.S. because we believe it’s important for us to do that,” said Chetan Kandhari, Nationwide’s Chief Innovation and Digital Officer. “We’ve got to make sure that our food supply chain is robust and vibrant in the future.”

Climate change creates challenges to provide a “consistent and nutritious food supply year-round for the consumer,” said Dr. Gary Pierzynski, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education in the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Ohio State.

Fruits, vegetables, and berries in the produce section of grocery stores are the most susceptible to extreme weather, Pierzynski said.

The new Controlled Environment Agriculture Research Complex at Ohio State, situated west of Kenny Road at The Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory, features single- and two-story facilities to replicate various agricultural settings around the world.

Developing hardier and more productive crops will expand the agricultural industry, said Pierzynski, based on collaborative research that will use more than 80,000 square feet of growing space..

“It’s an extremely valuable asset to our student training, and they will be able to access state-of-the-art production of fruits, vegetables in this facility,” Pierzynski said.

He stated that one of the major advantages of the AgTech Innovation Hub is the ability to “tap into the creative wisdom of both our faculty and our students to put toward solving real-world problems related to climate risks.”

Towers of leaf lettuce grow at the Mid-Ohio Farm at NBC4. (NBC4 Photo/Tony Mirones)

NBC4 is partnering with the Mid-Ohio Food Collective on the Mid-Ohio Farm project on one-eighth of an acre directly behind the station to grow food, to help meet the needs of the about 2,500 people who reside in the neighborhood.

The goal is to produce more than 100,000 pounds of food per year, according to NBC4 Vice President and General Manager Ken Freedman. He said that vertical gardens can yield fresh produce from as many as 25-30 plants for every square foot, compared to one plant grown in the same horizontal space.