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Originally published Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 10:02 AM

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Scientists, farmers to study climate change

Farmers and scientists in the inland Northwest are launching a $20 million study on how climate change will impact agricultural practices.

The Associated Press

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SPOKANE, Wash. —

Farmers and scientists in the inland Northwest are launching a $20 million study on how climate change will impact agricultural practices.

Nearly 100 researchers and farmers from across the region met Monday at the University of Idaho, where the five-year research program is starting, The Spokesman-Review reported.

"Climate change is one of the challenges that faces the sustainability of agriculture in this region," said UI professor Scott Eigenbrode, who is leading the project.

Funding for the study comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Temperatures in the area have already risen about 1.8 degrees on average in the past century, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is predicting they will increase another 3.6 degrees by 2050, Eigenbrode said.

Winter precipitation is predicted to increase by 5 percent, but summer rainfall could drop by 5 to 20 percent, he said.

Warmer summer temperatures could spell problems for grains and other crops that will face increased heat and water stress.

Pests such as the cereal leaf beetle, Hessian fly and aphids could become bigger problems in a warmer climate, he said. Pathogens carried by aphids might also be aggravated.

The project team includes more than 30 scientists from UI, Washington State University and Oregon State University.

Sales of cereal grains were worth $1.5 billion to the Pacific Northwest economy in 2009 and accounted for 13 percent of the nation's wheat crop, according to the project.

The project builds on earlier work done through the Climate Friendly Farming project at WSU as well as the Solutions to Environmental and Economic Problems involving the three universities over the past four decades.

The latter project has promoted seed drilling to reduce soil erosion. It also allows carbon to be reintroduced to the soil, thereby reducing carbon dioxide in the air, a chief component of global warming.

Dick Wittman, a farmer in Culdesac, Idaho, east of Lewiston, is serving on an advisory committee for the research project. He also is a founding member and director of the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association.

"Many are in denial that climate change is even a reality, and many more argue about what is causing it," Wittman said. "Scientific studies conclusively show increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that can't be ignored."

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Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com

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