Arizona Climate Change Could Stress Southwest Crops

High heat, drought, and continued climate change could stress southwest crops.
High heat, drought, and continued climate change could stress southwest crops.

The $9 billion agriculture industry in Arizona is used to the heat, but, when paired with drought and continued climate change, farmers could be forced to adapt to shifting fertile areas and water distribution faster than expected. This is according to an article from the Arizona Star, which highlights findings from a recent federally commissioned report.

The report shows that a warmer, drier climate in the southwest is projected to accelerate as agricultural water shifts toward growing urban areas and potentially moves crop production northward. The article points to the report’s stress on high-valued specialty crops, such as lettuce, fruits, and nuts, which can be found widely in the Yuma area of Arizona. Climate change could put these farmers on alert for potential change, as the southwest produces more than half of the nation’s high-value specialty crops.

Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute and co-author of the new report's Southwest chapter, says, "Arizona farmers know about heat stress, about heat and drought down there. I believe the Colorado River Basin overall will be ag-heavy for a long time and that agriculture will adapt. But some crops will move north, and a lot of what you'll see is changes in planting dates and genetics."

It will be interesting to see if the projections made in this report come to fruition and affect the agriculture industry in the southwest. Farmers may need to react to drought and climate change ahead of pace, as a failure to adapt could have devastating results.

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