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Adaptation Strategies for Agricultural Sustainability in Yolo County, California

Stephen M. Wheeler, Mihaela Tomuta, Daniel A. Sumner, William Salas, David Purkey, Josh Perlman, Toby O'Geen, Meredith T. Niles, Vishal K. Mehta, Mark Lubell, Hyunok Lee, Louise Jackson, Allan D. Hollander, Van R. Haden, Michael Dempsey | July 31st, 2012

This place-based case study in an agricultural county in California’s Central Valley focused on the period of 2010–2050, and dealt with biophysical and socioeconomic issues related to both mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to adaptation to an uncertain climate. In the past 100 years, changes in crop acreage has been more related to crop price and availability of irrigation water than to growing degree days during summer, and in fact, summer temperatures have increased less than winter temperatures. Econometric analysis indicated that warmer winters, as projected by Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory-Bias Corrected Constructed Analog during 2035–2050, could result in less wheat acreage, more alfalfa and tomato acreage, and slight effects on tree and vine crops. The Water Evaluation and Planning (WEAP) model showed that these econometric projections did not reduce irrigation demand under either the B1 or A2 scenarios, but a diverse, water-efficient cropping pattern combined with improved irrigation technology reduced demand to 12 percent below the historic mean.

Collaboration during development of Yolo County’s Climate Action Plan showed that nitrous oxide (mainly from nitrogen fertilizers) was the main source (40 percent) of agricultural emissions. Emissions from cropland and rangeland were several orders of magnitude lower than urbanized land per unit area. A survey distributed to 570 farmers and ranchers achieved a 34 percent response rate. Farmers concerned about climate change were more likely to implement water conservation practices, and adopt voluntary GHG mitigation practices.

Use of the urban growth model (UPlan) showed that channeling much or all future urban development into existing urban areas will increase ecosystem services by preserving agricultural land and open space, immensely reducing the Yolo County’s GHG emissions, and greatly enhancing agricultural sustainability.


agriculture, climate change, planning and management