Agroecological Approaches for Addressing Climate Challenges in Agriculture: Processes, Predictions, and Evidence

Seminar | November 13 | 12-1:15 p.m. | Morgan Hall, Lounge

 Timothy Bowles, UC Berkeley

 Center for Diversified Farming Systems

Longer and deeper droughts, more intense rainfall events, and hotter heat waves will all become more prevalent as climate change progresses. Such extreme weather will further expose the vulnerabilities of highly-simplified, intensive agricultural systems, manifesting as compromised crop yields and possibly greater ecosystem disservices like nitrogen pollution. Using a combination of literature review and data synthesis, Timothy Bowles shows that as precipitation patterns shift with climate change, harmful nitrogen losses from rainfed, intensive systems will likely grow worse. Strategic fertilizer management – the most commonly recommended strategy for addressing nitrogen losses – will also be increasingly ineffective. Agroecological approaches that diversify agricultural systems at multiple scales will instead be needed to address this challenge. As an example of diversification at one scale, Bowles shows the extent to which crop rotation diversity buffers against adverse growing conditions and supports short- and long-term productivity using ~350 site-years of data from 11 long-term experiments in North America. Challenges and implications for effective policies will be discussed.

Timothy Bowles is an agroecologist interested in how increasing reliance on biodiversity and ecological processes can reduce reliance on synthetic inputs and create productive, healthy, and resilient agroecosystems. He obtained a Ph.D. in Ecology from UC Davis where he used a participatory approach in working with local organic farmers to show how their management enhances soil organic matter and microbial activity to support both high yields and low potential for harmful nitrogen losses. Prior to joining the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley, he was a USDA AFRI postdoctoral fellow at the University of New Hampshire’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment where he worked to identify strategies that could reduce vulnerabilities of agricultural systems to changing precipitation patterns. He will continue this work at UC Berkeley and begin new projects focused on how to improve soil health, and assessing the barriers, benefits, and tradeoffs to doing so.

This event is part of the Center for Diversified Farming Systems Roundtable Series.

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