Source: University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers

Minnesota's crop economy, which totaled more than $12.7 billion in 2009, depends not only on corn and soybeans but on a variety of other crops, including wheat, sugar beets, dry beans, alfalfa, sunflower, potatoes, oats and barley. These crops are important in Minnesota in large part because our climate is conducive to their growth. Minnesota's climate trends, however, may affect some crops.

Long-term observations across Minnesota provide evidence for higher average temperatures (particularly at night), higher summer dew points, and higher total precipitation. This raises a question about whether the productivity of individual crops and cropping systems will change.

To determine whether changes in climate have had an effect on the productivity of barley, a group of researchers from the University of Minnesota, including University of Minnesota Extension, analyzed three decades of 'Robust' yield trial and weather data from the university's Research and Outreach Centers in Morris and Crookston.

'Robust' barley is one of the most successful variety releases from the University of Minnesota. Developed 30 years ago, it has dominated the six-row malting barley acreage for nearly as long. The recent analysis showed that climate has had an impact on yield from 'Robust' over this period, with a stronger impact in Morris than in Crookston, Minnesota.

The group concluded that barley was still within its climatic tolerance at Crookston, whereas barley at Morris is growing in an environment that is closer to its climatic limits. However, if growing-season temperatures are to increase further, as some of the records are already pointing toward and as has been forecasted by climate-change models, the expectation is that the southern edge of the barley growing region will move north because barley is no longer well-suited for Minnesota.

Funding for the project was provided through a grant from the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota. The complete report is expected to appear in the spring issue of the CURA Reporter, available in March 2011.

For more information about agricultural production of small grains, visit www.smallgrains.org, a collaborative Web site from University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers.