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Farmers will face difficult climate change decisions, study suggests

A collaborative study from Cornell University and Washington State University has found that some farmers will have to decide between either low yields or revenue instability as a result of climate change. Climate change will leave some farmers with a difficult choice, according to a new study by researchers from Cornell University and Washington State University : risk more revenue volatility, or live with a more predictable decrease in crop yields.

As water shortages and higher temperatures drive down crop yields in regions that depend heavily on seasonal snow, the choice to use more drought-tolerant crop varieties comes at a cost, according to model projections detailed in the paper “Water Rights Shape Crop Yield and Revenue Volatility Tradeoff for Adaptation in Snow Dependent Systems.”

The study examined the Yakima River Basin in Washington, where a complex combination of snow, reservoirs and water rights controls the availability of irrigation water. That water dictates the success of some of the US’ largest producers of wheat, corn, potatoes, pears, cherries, grapes, apples and hops. With proper snowfall and melt, total agricultural productivity in the basin can reach more than $4 billion a year.

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