Is Climate Change Already Affecting Indiana’s Agriculture?

Near-record weather in 2019 follows long trend of rising precipitation and temperature averages
January 23, 2020

The recently released Indiana annual crop summary showed changing weather patterns are affecting the production of the state’s top crops, and the problem could be getting worse.

The visible effects of climate change could potentially cost farmers hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said near-historic precipitation caused a decline in corn and soybean production in 2019.

A new report found that Indiana corn production was down 16% compared to 2018, and soybean production was down 20% from 2018.

“This was not a normal year,” said Greg Matli, Indiana state statistician for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service at a crop report panel. “Nothing like 2019 has happened in our history before.”

January 2020 annual crop summary
The Indiana annual crop summary showed precipitation caused a decline in corn and soybean production in 2019.

According to USDA NASS data, heavy rainfall limited 2019’s total of corn acreage harvested for grain to 4.82 million acres, the lowest total since 1983.

The precipitation that limited crop production is part of a trend seen across the country.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2019 was the second-wettest year on record.

“Looking at the numbers across the lower 48 states averaged, we saw 34.78 inches of precipitation in 2019. That is less than a quarter-inch below the all-time record 34.96 inches in 1973,” said USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey.

Rippey said the top 5 wettest years on record, in descending order, were 1973, 2019, 1983, 2018 and 2015.

“So, what that means is that over the last five years, we have seen three of the wettest years on record. And that’s covering 125 years from the late 1890s to the present,” Rippey said.

annual average precipitation
Average annual precipitation in Indiana has risen since the mid-20th century.

The average annual precipitation and average temperature in Indiana have risen significantly since the mid-20th century.

Those changes are projected to have a serious effect on the state’s agricultural output.

A team of more than 100 experts from dozens of private and public organizations compiled a series of reports known as the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment.

The reports seek to show how climate change will affect life in Indiana, including the state’s agriculture.

The researchers found that rising temperatures alone could result in a decrease of up to 20% for corn crop yields and up to an 11% decline in soybean yields. Increased precipitation will result in up to 50% nutrient loss from farm fields. The combination of the two could also result in increasing weed, pests and disease pressure on the state’s agricultural production.

Average annual precipitation
The average annual temperature in Indiana has risen since the mid-20th century.

The changing climate is already causing real financial damage.

Indiana farmers may have lost about $469 million in revenue due to the decreased corn production caused by increased precipitation in 2019.

Since 2000, severe flooding and rain events have cost Hoosiers billions of dollars in losses.

The number of massively expensive weather and climate events has doubled in the last two decades. The U.S. experienced twice the number of billion-dollar weather events during the 2010s than it did in the 2000s.

In 2019 alone, the U.S. experienced 14 weather and climate disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion. Together, the events cost Americans $45 billion. The NOAA found that the events with the most widespread impact and economic cost were three flooding events in the Midwest.

The USDA said precipitation would most likely delay the 2020 planting season in some parts of the country, including the upper Great Lakes region.

The agency said the number of acres planted for 22 principal crops across the nation in January is the lowest reported since 1970.

Is Climate Change Already Affecting Indiana’s Agriculture?