Warmer temps impact local crops - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Warmer temps impact local crops

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"We're getting hotter, longer, warmer heat waves, that's going to be the real problem."

Scott Heckathorn and his team are racing to find answers for how plants react to heat.  He's watched them adapt over just generations and says you can see it, too.

"So spring's about a week earlier.  And fall is about a week later," Heckathorn said.  "So here in the U.S. we already have a growing season that's about two weeks longer than it was a hundred years ago...You don't have to be a scientist to notice that."

Two extra weeks to the growing season doesn't sound so bad.  In theory, you'd get more production.  But pollinators like bees aren't necessarily out this early.  The plant diseases are expected to pop up on our cash crops, Heckathorn said.

"In general, the plants that are really going to take it on the chin are going to be trees.  Trees don't handle heat waves well, especially when we get a little bit of drought.  And on average, the bigger the tree, the harder they fall."

The summer of 2012 was a prime example.  That's year's heat and drought caused a die-off of old trees around Toledo.  He tests that in the lab, even during the brutal winter.

"We can control everything, we can control the temperature, the day length, we can control humidity, we can control the level of CO2 in the chamber."

One of our biggest crops is winter wheat.  It's really struggled in the cold but that may not be the only issue.  If winters warm, it messes with the plant's signals to go to sleep or wake up.

"So winter wheat's going to be affected strongly... Most of our plants will be affected in one way or another," Heckathorn said.  "Most of them will adapt but in terms of farmers, many farmers maybe farming different crops in the future in Ohio."

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