climate-column-warmer-wintersBy Tom Somrack, NFU Government Relations Intern

Warmer temperatures in usually cold winters sound great! Right?! USDA’s Regional Vulnerability Assessments explain how a decrease in snow cover and frozen soil may affect a variety of ecosystem processes, including decomposition, nutrient cycling, and the onset of the growing season. Warmer winters can fluctuate with more rainfall with warmer temperatures.

How does less snow cover and warmer temperatures during the winter months affect your farming operation? Depending on the location of your farm, warmer winters can have great implications for your crops and yields. According to the Northeast and Northern Forests Regional Climate Hub Assessment of Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies, extended warm periods in late winter or early spring can cause premature blooming, followed by an extreme frost can cost growers millions. The report suggests that by the end of the century average temperatures may increase by as much as 8.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Changes like warmer winters will lengthen the growing season and will change the scope of production.

The study also mentions that rising winter temperatures will threaten the viability of winter crops, such as winter wheat and other cover crops. This may affect your farm by seeing shifts in planting dates of grains and other field crops.

Warmer winters will also affect livestock and susceptibility to illness, especially an increase in pathogens and parasites. Wetter and muddier conditions in early spring may encourage the spread of mastitis and foster respiratory conditions among dairy cattle.

Have you seen a difference on your farm in recent years due to a changing climate and warmer winters? How has climate and a change in temperatures affected the way you farm? Learn more by staying posted with NFU’s blog and checking out USDA’s Climate Hubs.

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