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Researchers look to solve food production challenges due to climate change

Researchers look to solve food production challenges due to climate change

YUMA, AZ — Researchers say climate change is posing significant challenges for farmers across the country and could have an impact on food production in years to come.

Former Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan says at the local level, drought and wildfires are the most significant threats to Arizona ranchers.

“We were trying to do soil samples to see how their soil is on their ranch and they’re like, 'well you know, half of our ranch was destroyed by fire,'” she said. “We’ve had people severely impacted by that.”

To see what other challenges farmers across the state are facing due to changing weather patterns, ABC15 traveled to Yuma, Arizona. The southwest city is known as the lettuce capital of the world, and according to the Yuma Chamber of Commerce, is responsible for 90% of the leafy greens distributed in the United States.

At the University of Arizona's Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture, researchers are looking for solutions to the ever-changing climate. The center is a land laboratory that helps farmers overcome problems in the field.

"When the climate changes, it causes impacts to the crops," said Paul Brierley, the executive director of the center.

In the past decade or so, Brierley says farmers have experienced the water shortage on the Colorado River firsthand. But with new technology, researchers have found ways to measure exactly how much water to use so it doesn't go to waste. It's a process he calls, "more crop for drop."

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