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Building Resilience to Climate Change in Cereal Production Systems: agroecosystem components and integrative approaches

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The dryland, cereal grain production systems of the inland Pacific Northwest (IPNW), serve as an important source of soft white and hard red winter wheat to the global grain market. A marked precipitation gradient exists across the wheat production zone within the IPNW with mean annual precipitation varying ...

The dryland, cereal grain production systems of the inland Pacific Northwest (IPNW), serve as an important source of soft white and hard red winter wheat to the global grain market. A marked precipitation gradient exists across the wheat production zone within the IPNW with mean annual precipitation varying from 150 mm in the west to over 750 mm in the east. This gradient leads to differences in biophysical constraints to crop growth. Social and economic drivers also change across the gradient, impacting cropping systems and the adoption of conservation practices. Without major sources of irrigation over much of the region, warmer and drier summers predicted by global climate models will likely force growers to adapt their cropping systems to maintain economic viability. The complex issue of increasing yields to meet the demands of future global population growth while building resiliency to climate change requires cross-disciplinary approaches to understanding the biophysical and socio-economic drivers within these systems. In this special issue we highlight not only the results of integrated study of multiple IPNW agroecosystem components (crops, weeds, insects, stakeholders, etc.), but an overall approach to working on large-scale, cross-disciplinary agroecological and climate change projects. While our focus in on IPNW systems, the approach and data reported here will be broadly applicable to cereal production systems around the world.

The wide range of precipitation and temperature across this region provides a unique opportunity to identify thresholds where growers are currently modifying their cropping systems in response to biophysical, social and economic factors. Managing crop type, rotation and variety to take advantage of future markets, applying the appropriate residue and tillage management to conserve water and minimize erosion, prescribing optimal fertilizer, and applying targeted and timely pesticide applications to avoid widespread crop failure are all effected to some degree by climate change.

The complexity of climate forcing in these ecosystems requires solutions developed from diverse interdisciplinary teams. The work presented in these articles was primarily supported by a large USDA CAP grant entitled “Regional Approaches to Climate Change (REACCH) in the Pacific Northwest” as well several collaborative USDA and NSF-IGERT grants. The coordination of research through these major funding grants allowed for a very thorough and detailed look at strategies to build resilience to climate change in this complex cereal grain production region.

In this Research Topic, we welcome articles authored by interdisciplinary teams of scientists, which in turn provide a thorough understanding of some of the major recommended adaptation strategies across the region. In addition, we would like to focus on the social dimensions that will influence change within different climatic zones of the IPNW as well as a studies of the general scientific approach taken within the region to study climate change and agriculture. This Research Topic will also offer a global context by the inclusion of articles focused on an international arid cereals conference hosted by the REACCH project.


Keywords: cereal agroecosystems, climate change, climatic gradients, cross-disciplinary, stakeholders, collaboration, agronomy, resilience


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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