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Climate change could lead to earlier or longer growing degree days

Across the country, the number of growing degree days has increased by 97 percent.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Each crop or plant has a different base air temperature, or a threshold below which growth is limited. According to Climate Central, the Growing Degree Day is the difference between daily average temperature and base temperature.

Between 1970 and 2021, Climate Central found the number of Growing Degree Days increased 97 percent across the 246 stations. While some plants may have benefited from this increase, many crops could see added stress.

Credit: 10TV

William Anderegg, an associate professor of biological sciences, says “the biggest impact for farming is temperature and that is why climate change and increasing spring temperatures is going to have these substantial impacts on plants and ecosystems.”

Especially in areas of drought, this earlier start to spring-like weather could add stress to plant growth. “A lot of time an earlier growing season tends to have a longer hotter summer which is more stressful,” Anderegg said.

This extended warmer weather or earlier start to “spring” not only impacts plant growth but could bring on more pests and allergens. 

Anderegg said, “One of the ways that earlier springs and warming springs affect us is that we tend to see more pests and pathogens and that’s because many pests and pathogens are sensitive to temperature. So warming springs means they could really take off and explode to higher population levels.”

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