Global Warming May Affect Valley Crops

July 29, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Enjoy those fresh California peaches, apricots, and cherries while you can. A new study from U.C. Davis shows that someday those crops might not be able to grow here in the Central Valley. Walking through his orchard in Solano County, Russ Lester said this year's walnuts seem to be coming along fine. They will be ready to harvest in early October.

But what has Lester worried is by the time his grandchildren take over the family farm walnuts might not grow here anymore.

"What they're talking about happening more in the Central Valley it that it become more desert like; and so in that case it would grow nothing," said Lester.

A study by U.C. Davis says global warming is causing California winters to be less cool. And without that winter chill, certain crops can't get their required dormancy.

The researchers said they've already started to see some changes and that by the end of the century walnuts, pistachios, peaches, apricots, plums and cherries might disappear.

"Well we find those numbers are pretty alarming. And we think the California ag community needs to prepare for it," said U.C. Davis Researcher Minghua Zhang.

Some growers however remain skeptical and say that for now at least they continue to see bumper crops. Some also say global warming is happening slowly enough to develop new varieties less dependent on winter chill.

And for farmers global warming is not just about winter chill. It might also mean they have more insects they have to fight against it and less water for irrigation. A triple whammy that has walnut farmer Russ Lester not only worried, but taking action.

"Things like farming sustainably, reducing our footprint, our carbon footprint."

Changes he hopes will help keep California feeding the world for generations to come.

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