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ID Forecast: Crops Will Start Growing Like Weeds

May 28, 2008

Boise, ID - Climate change means Idaho is going to have to look at damage control. That's the gist of a new U.S. Department of Agriculture report on climate change, released Tuesday. It finds that western states like Idaho are already bearing the brunt of altered weather patterns.

USDA plant physiologist Jerry Hatfield, one of the report authors, explains how agriculture, Idaho's number-one industry, is being affected and will continue to be.

"An increase in temperature causes plants to grow faster, and paradoxically, the faster they grow, the smaller they actually are. And the warmer temperatures during the reproductive stage impacts pollination, as well as grain development."

Ecosystem researcher Steve Archer says Idaho's deserts are hyper-sensitive to changes in temperature and precipitation.

"Climate change will increase the sensitivity of arid lands to disturbances, such as fire, grazing and off-road vehicle use, and it will limit their ability to recover from these disturbances."

The report also notes that Idaho forests are losing trees as more insects move in, and forest fires will continue to grow in size and intensity. Areas in the Eastern U.S. should expect to see more rain.

While the report doesn't make any recommendations for reducing the pollution scientifically linked to climate change, it's expected the data will help shape future state and federal policy.

The report, "The Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture, Land Resources, Water Resources and Biodiversity," is available online at

Deborah Smith/Steve Powers, Public News Service - ID