USDA funds research initiatives on weather, climatic variability on cattle

Published on: May 7, 2013

The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded $19.5 million May 7 to support research, education and extension activities associated with climate solutions in agriculture aimed at the effects of climate variability and change on dairy and beef cattle.

"We have seen the impact that variable climate patterns have had on production agriculture for the past several years. These projects will deliver the best tools available to accurately measure and respond to the effects of climate on beef and dairy production," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "Farmers and ranchers need sound, science-based information and solutions to help them make management decisions that will sustain their productivity and keep their operations economically viable."

Two Coordinated Agricultural Projects (CAP) bring together teams of researchers that represent various geographic areas to support discovery, applications and promote communication leading to science-based solutions to emerging national priorities and needs.

The funded CAP teams are:

(1) The University of Wisconsin-Madison, which received $9.9 million over five years to study the environmental impacts of various dairy production systems and develop best management practices for producers to implement at the farm level. The team will also develop an agricultural education curriculum with an urban foods focus at a high school in Milwaukee, Wis., in an effort to educate future consumers about the contributions of the dairy industry to economic and environmental sustainability.

The University of Wisconsin is partnering in the project with the University of Arkansas, Cornell University, the University of Michigan, North Carolina A&T University, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Washington, along with four USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) laboratories, the U.S. Department of Energy and the industry-sponsored Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

(2) Oklahoma State University received $9.6 million over five years to better understand vulnerability and resilience of southern Great Plains beef in an environment of increased climate variability, dynamic land-use and fluctuating markets. The team's goal is to safeguard regional beef production while mitigating the environmental footprint of agriculture. The project also includes education and extension components to train producers and researchers in addressing the impact of climate on beef cattle.

The team is comprised of 32 scientists from Oklahoma State, Kansas State University, University of Oklahoma, Tarleton State University, the Samuel R. Noble Foundation and two ARS laboratories.

NIFA made the awards through its Agriculture & Food Research Initiative (AFRI) funding opportunity. AFRI's Climate Variability & Change challenge area is focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon sequestration in agricultural and forest production systems and preparing the nation's agriculture and forests to adapt to changing climates.

Previously, NIFA's CAP climate change portfolio funded three projects in 2010 focusing on loblolly pine in the South, corn production in the Midwest and wheat crops in the Northwest.