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Climate Change, Grain Production Is Focus of $20 Million Grant for UI, WSU, OSU

Editors Note: Interviews and video available for download (see below).

PULLMAN, Wash. – Helping one of the largest wheat producing regions in the world mitigate and successfully adapt to climate change is the focus of research that scientists from the University of Idaho, Washington State University and Oregon State University will conduct with a five-year, $20 million grant from the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture.

NIFA officials announced the grant this morning along with two other $20 million awards to the University of Florida and Iowa State University. UI is the lead institution for the Pacific Northwest grant and will receive $8 million. WSU and USDA Agricultural Research Service scientists, also adjunct faculty at WSU, at Pullman will receive $8 million. OSU will receive $4 million.

Although they emphasize that there are more than 60 different agri-ecological zones within the region, project scientists say, in general, temperatures in the Pacific Northwest’s prime grain growing regions are expected to increase by 3.6 degrees by 2050. Winter precipitation is expected to increase by approximately 5 percent in that same time frame; summer precipitation, however, is expected to decrease. They also say a 5 percent increase is relatively small compared to the large variations in precipitation throughout the region from year to year.

“The challenges that we are facing in agriculture are enormous,” said Howard Grimes, vice president research at WSU. “Everybody who has looked for even a moment at the population increase that is facing our planet, coupled with the arable land issues, coupled with the water use issue, coupled with the regional climate change issues understands immediately how grand this challenge is.”

Scientists from a variety of disciplines at the universities will tackle different aspects of the climate change challenge – cropping practices, weed and disease management and prevention, economics, computer modeling and mapping, soil science, rural sociology, carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions, and education and Extension. The team will include 22 principal investigators, 14 graduate students, three post-graduate researchers, and several technical and administrative staff. They will create a region-wide research, outreach and education network to address climate change issues.

“This project is unique in several important ways,” said Dan Bernardo, dean of the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. “It is interdisciplinary and inter-institutional, but it is also unique in the sheer magnitude of funding and scope. This larger, integrated, coordinated effort truly has the potential to be transformational for wheat and barley producers in our region.”

Thirteen of the nation’s wheat and 80 percent of the country’s soft white wheat exports come from the Pacific Northwest.

More information about the scientists involved and their roles in the project is available at http://www.uidaho.edu/reacchpna.

Editors Note: Sound bytes from Friday’s USDA Climate Change press conference are available for download at http://134.121.160.190/Dropboxes/WSUNews/. The file is called “usdaclimateSOTs” and is available in multiple video and audio formats. RIGHT-CLICK to download to machine. Do not open in browser. B-Roll of wheat on the Palouse is available as well in various video formats. That file is called “wheatbroll”.