Farmers around the world are experiencing the effects of a changing climate. Average temperatures are increasing, precipitation is less predictable, and floods are more common. Favorable climate conditions for crops are shifting geographically; optimal U.S. corn production conditions, for example, are shifting northward. Although aggregate climate trends are obvious and measurable, too little is known about the specific steps needed for agriculture to successfully adapt over the long term to anticipated shifts in the climate. Too little also is known about the consequent changes in pests, pathogens, invasive species, and habitat needs of wildlife. These changes pose challenges for all growers, but for those in developing countries with limited technical, financial, and educational resources, such changes can be catastrophic. In a ground-breaking addition to their Quadrennial Defense Review in 2010, the Pentagon identified a limited capacity to grow food as a significant threat to social and political stability in regions of Africa and Asia.
Both diversity of and within systems will likely contribute to the adaptive capacity and resilience of agriculture in the face of changing climatic, ecological, and economic conditions. A better understanding of the types and intensity of climatic and ecological changes is necessary for producers to better prepare. Also important is a better understanding of the relative resilience, flexibility, and adaptability of different farming systems in the face of climate and other predicted environmental changes.
Investments in research, data collection and distribution, education, and extension are needed to improve production across the existing range of climatic and ecological conditions, as well as the transfer of such technologies and techniques across borders. Information gaps and unmet needs for education and technical assistance must be identified and addressed, and possible interventions must be considered to better align patterns of crop and livestock production with conservation of natural resources.