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Conservation Tillage Expo covers changes in climate
Indiana Correspondent

AUBURN, Ind. — When the climate changes, risk to farmers changes as well, an extension climatologist said last week.

“The primary risk to your production is your weather,” said Elwynn Taylor, extension climatologist at Iowa State University. “The primary risk to price is the other guy’s weather.”

Taylor spoke on weather and how it affects farmers and production Feb. 22 at the fifth annual Tri-State Conser-vation Tillage Expo in Auburn. “The climate has always changed, and it will always change,” he said.

“The questions are how much will it change, how fast will it change and how come it changes.”

The question of how fast the climate is changing has concerned a lot of people, Taylor said.

He cited recent tropical storm patterns in Florida and the Atlantic in general as examples.

From 1933 to 1965, Florida had 11 major landfall hurricanes.

From 1966 to 2003, there was just one, Andrew, in 1992. In 2004, there were four, and last year, there were a record 27 named storms in the Atlantic Ocean.

“The storms shut down the port of New Orleans, and that affected shipping, energy and production,” he said. “The Midwest felt the pinch when they weren’t shipping grain.

“In the Midwest, if we’d had normal weather in December and January, factories and buildings would have been shut down to heat homes.”

The hurricanes that hit Texas also brought another potential problem with them - Asian Rust - from Brazil, Taylor said.

“We’ve seen Asian Rust starting in the Beaumont, (Texas) area,” he said. “The weather patterns will determine how easily, if at all, the rust can make it to the Midwest.”

Based on weather patterns and other factors, there’s about a 15 percent chance Asian rust will make it to Indiana, he said.

If it does, there’s about an 80 percent chance plants will get sick.

“Risk has numbers, and anything with numbers can be managed,” he said. “If there are no numbers, it is uncertain.

“We’re in risky times. It’s not the time to give up your crop insurance.

“You should use that to manage your risks.”

Weather patterns could also affect how easily Asian Bird Flu may reach the United States, he said.

“Birds do follow weather patterns and fly across the Pacific Ocean from Southeast Asia to Washington, Oregon and California,” Taylor said. “And in this country, chickens are consumers. If they are dead, there will be a change in demand for soybeans. If the flu gets here, there is a danger to the market for soybeans, and a potential danger to people.”

This farm news was published in the March 1, 2006 issue of Farm World.