top of page
Apples in a Crate
Agriculture Disruption

Average annual temperatures are projected to increase across

NYS by 4.1-6.8 °F by the 2050s, and 5.3-10.1 °F by the 2080s.

Our state's growing season could lengthen by about a month,

with summers becoming more intense and winters milder. 

This could cause a shift in crop cycles and growth habits.

Alterations in precipitation patterns may also negatively impact

the agricultural community in Erie County.  More arid conditions

may reduce crop yields and extremes in precipitation may

increase rates of erosion and directly lead to loss of prime farm soils.

Town of Aurora

Agriculture District

 Changes in Agricultural Productivity- 

According to the EPA, climate change can make conditions better or worse for growing crops in different regions.  Changes in temperature, rainfall, and frost-free days are leading to longer growing seasons in almost every state, including NYS.  A longer growing season can have both positive and negative impacts for crops.  Whereas some farmers may be able to plant longer-maturing crops or more crop cycles , others may need more irrigation over a longer, hotter growing season.  Air pollution can also damage crops, plants, and forests.  When plants absorb large amounts of ground-level ozone, they suffer from reduced photosynthesis, slower growth, and are more disease prone.   

 

Climate change can also increase the threat of wildfires, and changes in temperature and rainfall amounts will also very likely expand the occurrence and range of insects, weeds, and diseases. This could lead to a greater need for weed and pest control. 

 

Pollination is vital to more than 100 crops grown in the United States.  Warmer temperatures and changing precipitation can affect when plants bloom and when pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, come out.  If mismatches occur between when plants flower and when pollinators emerge, pollination could decrease.

Impacts to Soil and Water Resources-

Climate change is expected to increase the frequency of heavy precipitation which can harm crops by eroding soil and depleting soil nutrients. Heavy rains can also increase agricultural runoff into our lakes, and streams. This runoff can harm water quality. When paired with warming water temperatures runoff can lead to depleted oxygen levels in water bodies which can kill fish.

Challenges to Agricultural Workers and Livestock-

Farmers & agricultural workers are at risk from exposure to heat and other extreme weather, more pesticide exposure due to expanded pest presence, disease-carrying pests like mosquitos and ticks, and worsening air quality. Language barriers, lack of health care access, and other factors can compound these risks. Heat and humidity can also affect the health and productivity of animals raised for meat, milk, and eggs. 

Impacts on Pollination-

According to leading scientists at the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, climate change is a significant factor contributing to the decline in pollinator populations. A warming climate and rapidly changing weather patterns are disrupting the critical timing between flowering plants and the pollinators who must forage them for food. Honey bees, along with native bees, wasps, and other pollinators such as butterflies, are vital to securing our food supply.  Fruit and seed yields dramatically increase in quantity and quality when many pollinator species are present, whether in wild ecosystems or in crops such as apples or almonds. Unfortunately, shifts in temperature, droughts, and floods are disrupting native ranges for pollinators, and negatively impacting hibernation, spring nest establishment, and reproduction. While the importance of pollinators is widely known, populations have been declining for more than a decade. 

Local Agricultural Impacts From Warming Weather Trends-

As stated in the Erie County Climate Vulnerability Assessment, Draft of Climate Hazards Summary Report August 16, 2020, analysis of the northeast US, western New York, and the Greater Buffalo and Erie County region all point to an upward trend for average temperature. Since 1990, vegetation growing zones have shifted northward and the trend is projected to continue.  A potential positive of this shift with its increase in levels of carbon dioxide, is a possible increase in plant productivity in some instances. However, overall  increase in temperature is expected to negatively impact crop yields and health of livestock. It may also result in an increase in pressure on agriculture from noxious weeds and insect pests. Excessive, prolonged heat can cause drought conditions for farmers, with the risk of crop loss and increased irrigation costs.

Erie County Heat Related Agricultural Disaster Declarations-

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) tracks drought losses in agriculture that often accompany extreme heat events. Between 2014 and 2020, Erie County has been included in USDA disaster declarations caused by drought, high winds, wildfire, excessive heat, and insects.  

  •  In 2016, heat-related crop losses totaled $5,096.

  • In 2017, heat-related crop losses totaled $6,867.

  • In 2018, heat-related crop losses totaled $27,811.

  • In 2020, heat-related crop losses totaled $47,778 (USDA 2021).

Local Agricultural Impacts from Extreme Cold Weather Variability-

Cold weather can also negatively impact local crops. Extreme cold events in late spring or early fall can damage or kill crops and residential landscape plants. Early spring warming can prematurely cause buds to mature on fruit, crops, trees, etc. If a premature warming is followed by a freeze this can have a devastating effect on crop yields.  (A freeze occurs when the temperature drops below 32°F.)  Each plant species has a different tolerance to cold temperatures.

 

Erie County Cold & Extreme Weather Agricultural Disaster Declarations-

Since 2013 the following USDA disaster declarations were caused by freezing, snow, and other extreme weather variabilities that caused excessive rain, flooding, high winds, hail, lightning, and tornado.

Our town and county also benefit from farmers who produce agricultural products in addition to  fruits, vegetables, grains & livestock, etc.

Maple Syrup Production

With over 2,000 maple sugar makers, New York State is the largest resource of tappable maple trees within the United States. Across the state and in the Town of Aurora maple syrup producers, such as Webers in West Falls, may be particularly affected by climate change.  ACERnet, an international network of scientists and managers dedicated to studying the maple tree’s ecology and management, has studied the relationship between sap quality and climate.  Impacts include reduced maple tree health and growth, fewer trees, shorter tapping seasons, and lower quantity and quality of sap.

shutterstock_360113186.jpg
img-farmtreefield-1130x750_orig.jpg

Christmas Tree Farming 

Christmas tree farms are an important source of income for local rural farmers in our geographical area. (Click on WNY Christmas Tree Farmers Association to find area Christmas Tree Farmers.)

A recent study conducted by the Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions and Pennsylvania State University, in collaboration with Cooperative Extension, used data from six farmer focus groups in New York and Pennsylvania. Soil erosion, wet fields, and flooding due to increasing heavy downpours are just some of the many climate impacts that farmers face. Shifting seasons, drought, and increased pest pressure have also been identified as climate-related concerns. With profit margins already tight, these impacts could affect farm viability.

Bee Farming

Local Bee Keepers who manage hives in the Town of Aurora (Click on WNY Beekeepers to find our town's local beekeepers.) face particular climate-change induced challenges. According to the USDA,  losses of managed honey bee colonies are estimated at nearly 40 percent annually. Causes for the colony losses include nutritional stress from lack of pollen and nectar sources, parasitic Varroa mites and the viruses they transmit, and pesticide exposure. For honey bees, the warmer temperatures in late fall and winter in our regions make it increasingly difficult to reduce winter colony losses when warmer fall and winter temperatures are extending the period when bees are foraging. This disrupts the colony age and also enables the colony-devasting Varroa mite to migrate among colonies, thus spreading this parasite and the viruses it brings with it.

beekeeper.jpg
fall-foliage.jpg.webp

Tree Tourism

Although technically not an agricultural "crop" per se, the potential economic impact of lost tourism (aka "leaf peeper") dollars from disrupted fall foliage changes is worthy of consideration. The towns and rural hills south of Buffalo, including Aurora, annually attract visitors along our designated Southtowns Scenic Byway. Warmer springs, summers, and autumns have an effect on fall color display. A recent article from from Biologist, Susanne Renner explains that warm springs can make for earlier foliage color change, contrary to the perception that warming is delaying the onset of fall color. Imagine your fall foliage trip not so much during sweater weather, but rather in shorts weather. When the summer is dry and/or if late September and early October nights lack frost, the leaves will be more brown and muted. Different types of trees are impacted differently by variables in weather so a more dispersed display may result. If a reliable timeframe and brightly colored leaves are less common, this could impact the fall tourism industry.

bottom of page