Oregon Agriculture is Part of the Solution in a Changing Climate
Farmers and ranchers are some of Oregon’s most important land stewards, with an important role to play in solutions to our changing climate. From coastal dairy operators to eastern wheat farmers, from Hood River’s Fruit Loop orchards to nurseries and diverse vegetable farms throughout the state—all of Oregon’s farms and ranches can implement management practices that keep more carbon in the soil, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and work for a farmer’s bottom line. These actions will help provide a clear pathway for a future in Oregon with clean air, clean water, and communities resilient to a changing climate.
Climate Change is Impacting Oregon Farms and Bees Today
From crops damaged by more frequent hailstorms and the impacts from earlier irrigation shut offs, to wildfire smoke and higher temperatures harming our most vulnerable farmworkers, producers across the state are already feeling disruptions from climate change. Unpredictable weather patterns, fires, and higher temperatures also endanger populations of native bees--plants bloom earlier, or later, and encourage invasive plants that do not provide the nutrition that native bees need.
What is climate friendly agriculture?
Climate-friendly farming is not a single practice or rigid methodology. It is a holistic farming and ranching approach that includes a suite of practices that farms and ranches can employ based on their own unique needs and circumstances to help build soil health, steward our natural resources (enhancing biodiversity and water resiliency), sequester carbon and better adapt to a fast-changing climate. This approach also optimizes triple bottom line outcomes (farm economic viability, natural resource and environmental protection, and social capital for rural communities and society as a whole).
Climate-friendly agricultural practices include soil building improvements like reduced tillage, cover cropping and composting, hedgerow and riparian plantings, as well as pasture and range management. Modernizing irrigation and manure management systems and incorporating localized renewable energy sources are also important actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on farms.
Many of these practices provide additional enhancements for healthy soils like better fertility, reduced erosion, and drought resiliency.
Native Bees: Partners for Production and Profitability
Oregon is home to over 500 native bee species. Native bees, both managed and wild, are actually better pollinators than the European honey bee for many crops because of the way they collect pollen and visit flowers. Solitary and often quite small, 70% of native bee species nest in the ground, emerging as adults at different times throughout the year. The installation of nesting boxes for cavity-nesting bees has proven to increase pollination of many crops, from fruit trees to squash.
Climate-friendly agriculture will help increase the biodiversity of our native bee species. A diversity of native bee populations in turn will help farmers adapt to climate change.
Get Started: Ag Practices for a Better Climate & More Bees
Many of our best crop pollinators live in nests underground for most of the year. To protect them, turn soil over only when and where needed. Leave plenty of natural areas with both native grasses and bare soil. Appreciate some weeds, like dandelions that provide early pollen and nectar for bees. Reducing tillage not only keeps carbon in the soil, it potentially reduces fuel use and thus expenses and greenhouse gas emissions.
Grow flower-rich cover crops
Examples of excellent cover crops for farmers in Oregon also favored by native bees include clover (Trifolium spp.), phacelia (Phacelia spp.), buckwheat (Fagopyrum spp) and sunflowers (Helianthus spp.). Cover crops provide improved soil health, reduced erosion, additional nutrients, and weed suppression.
Plant hedgerows of native shrubs, trees and perennials
Permanent plantings that flower continually throughout the year provide stable non-crop forage and habitat for bees while strengthening populations of natural enemies of crop pests. For example, Oregon grape flowers provide essential forage early in the year, elderberry stems provide the perfect nests for cavity-nesting native bees, and asters and sunflowers provide blooms that extend late in the year. See online resources for plant lists and tips.
Create & Implement an Integrated Pest Management Plan
Many producers find that a plan of action for reducing pesticide use increases populations of pollinators and beneficial predatory insects. These plans also reduce input costs and nitrous oxide emissions, a dangerous greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.
Dig Deeper > Next Steps
There is much more to explore on these topics. Programs designed specifically for agricultural producers provide both funding and technical assistance to support landowners in finding the right tools for the job. We offer an extensive list of resources below to provide guidance for accessing the growing knowledge-base about climate- and bee-friendly agricultural practices.
From information about the almost 500 species of native bees (in Oregon alone) to recommended plant lists to lists of agencies and organizations that provide funding and technical assistance, these resources will help you be a more productive producer and a better steward of the land.
Farming for climate change
Cultivating Climate Resilience on Farms and Ranches
Understanding the Climate Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture
Training Beginning Farmers in Crop Production Skills to Build Climate Resilience
Common Bee Pollinators of Oregon Crops
Bee Friendly Farming brochure
Enhancing Nest Site for Native Bee Crop Pollinators
Plants for Pollinators in Oregon
Farming for Pollinators
Hedgerow Planting for Pollinators
SARE Project Publications
SW 03-040 - Assessing Soil Quality in Intensive Organic Management Systems
SW 13-017 - Integrating Research and practice in systems management of organic vegetable farms
SW 11-122 - Incorporating Cover Crops ad Green Manure in High-Desert Organic and Conventional Farming Systems
SW 04-072 - Managing Cover Crop and Conservation Tillage Systems To Enhance Vegetable Crop Yields, Economic Returns and Environmental Quality
FW17-039 - Saving Water and Improving Soil Health Through LESA Cover Crops, No-Till, and Management Intensive Grazing
SW 14-011 - Farming for Native Bees
SW 08-056 - Enhancement of Pollination by Native Bees in Blueberries and Cranberries
ONE 09-107 - Native Bee habitat Rehabilitation; Encouraging greater adoption of sustainable