COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Researchers at The Ohio State University are studying how Ohio farmers adapt to the impacts of heavier precipitation in the eastern portion of the Corn Belt.
Historic flooding in the spring in 2019 across a swath of the Midwest led to a record number of prevented plantings, which is the inability to plant insured crops due to extreme weather. Farmers who participate receive crop insurance benefits as compensation for costs accrued in getting crops ready for the growing season.
“All of the extreme weather events that we are witnessing across the country, the drought out West and the wildfires, are just examples of what we expect under climate change, which is more variability and more of the extremes,” said Robyn Wilson, project director, who teaches risk analysis and decision science in the OSU School of Environment and Natural Resources.
Nearly 20 million acres of cropland went unplanted in 2019 in the midsection of the country, including 11.4 million acres of corn and 4.5 million acres of soybeans. In Ohio, prevented planting affected virtually all major crops, totaling 1.6 million acres, second only to South Dakota (3.9 million acres). Hardest hit was northwestern Ohio, where persistent rain and flooded fields thwarted even late plantings in June and early July.
Harsh weather can wreak havoc on Ohio’s $125 billion agricultural economy.
“We worry about what kind of fluctuations over a shorter period of time, so farmers are very concerned about too much rain in the spring and the fall when they need to be in the field, and not enough rain in the summer when they want their crops to be growing,” Wilson said.
Outreach professionals at Ohio State focused their research on agricultural sustainability in the eastern Corn Belt. In the past half-century, the occurrence of the top 1% of all rainfall events has increased 42%, requiring farmers to implement more drainage tile and conservation tillage.
The OSU team created a series of videos that take into account a significant increase in annual precipitation in a warmer world that, which impacts on the growing season, and how to navigate crop insurance policies, especially larger farms. The project aims to model climate change impacts and adaptation strategies for farmers focused on resilience and sustainability.