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Kansas researchers tackle crop production as national assessment warns changing climate can damage agriculture

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Kansas researchers tackle crop production as national assessment warns changing climate can damage agriculture

Dec 06, 2023 | 12:43 pm ET
By Rachel Mipro
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Kansas researchers tackle crop production as national assessment warns changing climate can damage agriculture
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Kansas researchers will focus on creating long-term sustainable agricultural practices. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

TOPEKA — Kansas State University researchers have been given millions in funding to study ways to increase crop yields as national reports warn of worsening agricultural conditions in the Midwest. 

Kansas State University researchers will collaborate with other U.S. Corn Belt universities on research meant to bolster understanding of how agricultural practice impacts local environmental conditions.

K-State researchers Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, professor of soil fertility and nutrient management, and Brian Olson, professor and head of Western Kansas Research-Extension Centers, are heading the study alongside Sotirios Archontoulis, professor of Integrated Cropping Systems Lab at Iowa State University.

“The applications we find have the potential to deliver substantial benefits to producers, potentially amounting to billions of dollars in increased crop productivity, reduced environmental impact and enhanced sustainability,” Ruiz Diaz said.

The $16.3 million project will be carried out at eight research locations in the Great Plains and Corn Belt regions over five years, with researchers from Iowa State University, Mississippi State University, Ohio State University and the University of Kansas, among others.

The study’s length is meant to thoroughly examine how environmental conditions, agriculture practices and plant genetics change over time, and changing climate conditions.

Funding for the project comes from a mix of dollars awarded from national research groups and state university contributions. In Kansas, portions of the research work will be held at the Harold and Olympia Lonsinger Sustainability Research Farm near Alton and at the Western Kansas Research-Extension Center in Garden City.

The project begins after the release of the fifth National Climate Assessment in November, a federal initiative that reports the impacts of global change on the environment every four years.

This year’s report found the Southern Great Plains region, which includes Kansas, is at risk of extreme weather and rising temperatures. Hotter summers and milder winters have affected crop production, and may damage corn and soybean crop production. 

“The institutions that serve our communities have been challenged to respond and adapt to more frequent and intense weather events. Without significant adaptation, climate change is expected to strain water supplies, transportation infrastructure, and emergency services across the Southern Great Plains,” the report said.