Responding to Climatic Challenges

Alan L. Olmstead and Paul W. Rhode

in The Economics of Climate Change

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780226479880
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226479903 | DOI:
Responding to Climatic Challenges

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This chapter provides a long-term perspective for understanding how American farmers have responded to new and challenging growing environments that in some cases involved greater temperature variations than are forecast in many contemporary climate change scenarios. The chapter examines the regional climatic barriers that were encountered in the expansion of the agricultural frontier across North America and the collaborative innovations of farmers, agricultural experiment and extension agents, and seed companies in responding to them for wheat, corn, and cotton. These changes for the most part occurred before a modern understanding of plant genetics informed breeding activities. The evidence says nothing directly about the ability of future farmers aided by rapid advances in plant sciences to respond to climatic changes, but the historical adjustment process does indicate that the malleability of the agricultural enterprise rendered obsolete the predictions of many past experts. The historical record does show that farmers were able to develop technologies to push crop production into areas previously thought unsuitable for agriculture because of the harsh climatic conditions.

Keywords: U.S. agriculture; climate change; plant sciences; breeding activities; atmospheric changes; global warming; crop production

Chapter.  9962 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Economic Development and Growth

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