Climate change and Annual Crop Production on the Canadian Prairies (pp. 425-450)
Authors: (Herb W. Cutforth)
Abstract: Climate on the Canadian Prairies has been steadily warming since about 1950. The rate of warming has varied temporally and spatially, with the western and northwestern regions warming faster than other regions on the Prairies. The late winter-early spring season has warmed faster than summer or fall, the frost-free duration has lengthened, especially in the northwest, and incident solar radiation amounts have been decreasing. Precipitation patterns on the prairies have changed - some regions receiving less, some regions receiving more precipitation. On average, precipitation amounts have increased slightly on the Prairies. Current trends in temperature and precipitation generally coincide with the predicted direction of climate change, reinforcing the need for initiating/ developing adaptation strategies for agriculture in response to future climates. Adaptation strategies discussed include: breeding crops, or obtaining crops from other environments, that are adapted to warmer climates with longer growing seasons, higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations, higher temperatures, and increased aridity; growing winter crops; altering crop sequences within crop rotations; adopting tillage practices that increase water use efficiency of cropping systems, and/or reduce soil degradation. One relatively simple practice that may have large positive impacts on agricultural production in the future is earlier seeding.