Research Team Explores Impact of Climate Change on Future of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

University of Arkansas researchers are studying risks that climate change could pose to crops like corn and tomatoes.
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University of Arkansas researchers are studying risks that climate change could pose to crops like corn and tomatoes.

Environmental problems including changes in our climate, loss of fresh water and competition for resources threaten the world's supply of fresh fruits and vegetables. Marty Matlock, executive director of the U of A Resiliency Center, and professor of ecological engineering, and Greg Thoma, professor of chemical engineering, are part of a team of researchers exploring this problem.

The team, led by the University of Florida and the ILSI Research Foundation, includes researchers from the International Food Policy Research Institute, University of Florida, University of Illinois, Washington State University and the World Agricultural Economic and Environmental Services. The project is supported with a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

"Through this type of collaborative research, we discover the scientific answers that help solve world hunger problems," said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. "Knowing where and how to grow crops goes a long way to feeding as many people as possible while conserving our environment."

The tools the team will use include crop modeling, risk assessment, and life cycle assessment. "The U of A team has developed integrated tools for analyzing risks to complex supply chains," said Thoma.

Climate change impacts include temperature and water resources. The research team will use crop, environmental, economic and climate modeling to predict current and future impacts on yield. They will analyze the production potential of selected fruit and vegetable crops in states where they are currently grown and identify future locations that will allow for resilient strategies for continued production.   

"The changes in agricultural production in the next 25 years will be dramatic," said Matlock. "The security and safety of U.S. fruit and vegetables requires a science-based strategy."

Contacts

Camilla Shumaker, director of science and research communications
University Relations
479-575-7422, camillas@uark.edu

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