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Montana Farmers Consider Climate Change Impacts During Great Falls Meeting

Wheat field.
Wheat field

Montana farmers will have to take the changing climate into account, even planting different species to accommodate warmer temperatures. That was part of the message delivered at a gathering in Great Falls Friday, sponsored by The Montana Farmers Union.  Justin Derner, a research leader with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Midwestern farmers are already planting more corn and less wheat, partly in response to changes in temperature and precipitation.

"We already know that corn is moving largely from the Midwest into the eastern part of the plains.  Predictions are there might be up to 10 million acres of southern Canada planted in corn in the next decade or two, so that’s really gonna influence, in terms of land use, in terms of cropping production."

Climate change has also increased the threat posed by cheatgrass, an invasive weed that fuels many summer wildfires. Fabian Menalled, a climate researcher with Montana State University, says increasing carbon dioxide over the last fifty years has made cheatgrass grow taller, and burn hotter.

"So this cycle we see of cheatgrass enhancing the fire dynamic is actually related to the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere."

The session, called “Plowing Forward”, was first suggested by Democratic U.S. Senator Jon Tester, who was originally scheduled to attend, until his flight was canceled because of weather.

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