This post is modified from an article originally published in The Delmarva Farmer (2/13/2018)
Most people would probably be surprised to know that bacterial cells outnumber human cells in our bodies by 10-to-1 and that just one teaspoon of healthy soil contains more than 1 billion bacteria and fungi (microbes for short). Yuck, right? Well, not exactly.
Microbes have gotten a bad rap because the small fraction of bacteria and fungi that cause disease get all the attention. In fact, most microbes are friendly, and neither humans nor plants can live without them.
Although the chemical and physical properties of soil have dominated discussion (and soil testing) in the past, the focus is now changing as soil is recognized as a living ecosystem. With this change, it is becoming clear that sustained agricultural productivity requires farming practices that protect the soil and increase the diversity of life underground. Home gardeners can also benefit from gardening strategies that protect and promote the living things in their garden soil.
In my last post, I addressed some common questions that farmers ask about climate change. Although I considered why the scientific information documenting climate change is trustworthy, I didn’t actually explain how climate change works. A savvy reader picked up on this and was dissatisfied that I didn’t present the relationship between increasing CO2 and global warming. In this post, I’ll correct that omission.
The CO2-temperature connection occurs through the “Greenhouse Effect”, a process that almost everyone has heard about but surprisingly few people can explain.
If you’re not sure whether climate change is real, you’re not alone. Although recent surveys reveal that 75% of Marylanders think climate change is occurring, many people say they just don’t know enough to be certain about whether it is a problem.
It’s not surprising that people are confused. Climate change isn’t always taught in schools and it wasn’t taught at all when today’s adults were schoolkids. We can’t rely on personal experience for evidence because variability in weather makes it hard to detect climate trends in real time. Our friends and neighbors might not know any more than we do. And the recent injection of political opinion into the climate discussion has only added to the confusion by distracting people from reliable scientific evidence.
So, what does the evidence say about some common climate change questions from farmers?
Editor’s note – this article was originally posted on Delmarva Farmer and was re-published here with permission. While the content focuses on farms, it is also relevant to anyone growing in Maryland, including homeowners.
The day I drove to Easton, Md. to discuss climate change with the staff of The Delmarva Farmer, it was raining so hard I couldn’t see the car ahead of me on the Bay Bridge.
It’s easy to write off a torrential rain like that as just another case of bad weather.
However, long-term records of rainfall in the Third National Climate Assessment in 2014 show that much more of our rain now falls in downpours rather than in the gentle soaking rains I remember as a kid.
“Bad weather” is becoming more common.
The increasing frequency of downpours in our region is just part of what scientists call “the new normal” under climate change. In Maryland, data released earlier this year by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show that the frequency of rains greater than 4 inches has increased since 1950, as have the number of days warmer than 100 degrees F and the number of nights over 70 degrees F.
Seasonal patterns of precipitation have also changed, with more rain typically falling in spring and fall and less rainfall in the summer. Winters are warmer and shorter and spring comes earlier.
These new weather patterns are products of four big climatic changes that began in the mid-1800s: The air is warmer, the ocean is warmer, there is more water vapor in the air, and sea levels are rising.