According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), “Climate change poses unprecedented challenges to U.S. agriculture because of the sensitivity of agricultural productivity and costs to changing climate conditions” (Walthall et al., 2013). Factors that may adversely affect productivity include rising nighttime temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, reductions in pollination, and loss of chilling requirements. According to this recent report, changes such as these will outweigh increases in plant growth from elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Such unprecedented challenges to agriculture from climate change will likely present unprecedented challenges to those teaching students about agriculture.
Weather extremes consistent with predictions from climate change and global warming models are already occurring. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the growing season in the 48 contiguous U.S. states has been above the long-term average every year since 1980 and is now about 2 weeks longer than in 1900 (EPA, 2013a). Although much of country is experiencing longer growing seasons, parts of the country have experienced hard, damaging freezes later in the spring than previously (Augspurger, 2013; Marino et al., 2011). The number and severity of extreme precipitation events have also increased (Booth et al., 2012). Parts of the country are becoming wetter, whereas others are becoming drier (EPA, 2013b). Changes are prevalent worldwide (Battisti and Naylor, 2009). These are already impacting horticulture, with crop failures and rising prices evident (Lyall, 2013; McGowan, 2013). Weather extremes will become more frequent and destructive if global temperatures rise as rapidly and as high as the models currently predict (Karl et al., 2009).
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and other scientific groups have expressed a critical need for climate literacy among individuals and communities (U.S. Global Change Research Program, 2009). These organizations helped to develop a climate literacy brochure; it points out that changes from global warming “will affect almost every aspect of human society, including economic prosperity, human and environmental health, and national security” (U.S. Global Change Research Program, 2009). Other notable points in the brochure include the importance of having climate-literate individuals to help prepare for and act to address the unprecedented challenges of climate change, such as by “planting new crops that will thrive under new climate conditions” (U.S. Global Change Research Program, 2009). In Apr. 2013, the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, AAAS, and Achieve released a new set of K-12 science standards that included climate literacy (Achieve, 2013). By the end of Oct. 2013, these standards had already been adopted by seven states.
The extent to which postsecondary institutions are including climate literacy in horticultural curricula and preparing future horticulturists for the challenges of climate change is unknown, but the inclusion of climate change in horticultural curricula appears to be a recent phenomenon. In 2009, climate change was not included in a consensus list of suggested competencies for horticulture students receiving bachelor’s degrees in the United States (Basinger et al., 2009), but it was included in a similar list published in 2013 (Pritts and Park, 2013). Sources of information on climate change that can be used in our classes abound, but specific examples of how or what to incorporate in horticultural curricula are harder to find. NOAA (2013) and EPA (2013c) have climate change sections on their websites that include summary statistics along with short explanations and clear graphics that can be downloaded. The USA National Phenology Network (2013) has a section with resources for higher education. Presentations given at conferences of the American Society for Horticultural Sciences related to climate change have been recorded (Bayer, 2013; Chung et al., 2011; Comstock, 2011; Warren and Barnett, 2012).
To determine the extent to which higher educational institutions across the United States have incorporated issues related to climate change in horticultural classes and curricula, a survey of current instructors was conducted. Because little was known about the subject, the survey was designed to determine if and to what extent climate change information is being included within horticultural programs. The survey was not an in-depth inquiry into exactly what institutions or instructors are doing in regard to climate change instruction.
Achieve2013Next Generation Science Standards: For States By States. 17 Oct. 2013. <http://www.nextgenscience.org/>
Association of Public and Land-grant Universities2012The Land-Grant Tradition. 26 May 2013. <http://www.aplu.org/document.doc?id=780>
AugspurgerC.K.2013Reconstructing patterns of temperature, phenology, and frost damage over 124 years: Spring damage risk is increasingEcology944150
BasingerA.R.McKenneyC.B.AuldD.2009Competencies for a United States horticulture undergraduate major: A national Delphi studyHortTechnology19452458
BayerA.2013Using Different Teaching Methods to Enhance Student Learning of Climate Change. 17 Oct. 2013. <http://ashs.org/db/horttalks/detail.lasso?id=15582>
ChungU.MacjL.YunJ.I.KimS.H.2011Predicting the Timing of Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC and Mid-Atlantic States in Response to Climate Change. 17 Oct. 2013. <http://ashs.org/db/horttalks/detail.lasso?id=116725>
ComstockJ.P.2011Phenology Modeling and Frost Risk Assessment with Climate Change for Temperate Fruit Crops. 17 Oct. 2013. <http://ashs.org/db/horttalks/detail.lasso?id=116774>
Cornell University2013aCourses of Study: Horticulture Courses. 29 Sept. 2013. <http://courses.cornell.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=18&poid=7836>
Cornell University2013bClimate Change Minor. 6 Oct. 2013. <http://courses.cornell.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=18&poid=8194>
DalyC.WidrlechnerM.P.HalbleibM.D.SmithJ.I.GibsonW.P.2012Development of a new USDA plant hardiness zone map for the United StatesJ. Appl. Meteorol. Climatol.51242264
KarlT.R.MelilloJ.M.PetersonT.C.2009Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States. 19 Dec. 2011. <http://downloads.globalchange.gov/usimpacts/pdfs/climate-impacts-report.pdf>
LyallS.2013Heat Flood or Icy Cold Extreme Weather Rages Worldwide. 1 Oct. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/11/science/earth/extreme-weather-grows-in-frequency-and-intensity-around-world.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0>
MarinoG.P.KaiserD.P.GuL.RicciutoD.M.2011Reconstruction of false spring occurrences over the southeastern United States, 1901–2007: An increasing risk of spring freeze damage?Environ. Res. Lett.6024015
McGowanM.2013Sustainability leaders Outline Local Climate Change Impact. 1 Oct. 2013. <http://www.thetimesnews.com/news/top-news/sustainability-leaders-outline-local-climate-change-impact-1.197517>
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration2013State of the Climate. 27 June 2013. <http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc>
USA National Phenology Network2013Resources for Higher Education. 26 June 2013. <https://www.usanpn.org/education/higher>
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency2013aClimate Change Indicators in the United States: Length of Growing Season. 1 Oct. 2013. <http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/science/indicators/society-eco/growing-season.html>
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency2013bClimate Change Indicators in the United States: U.S. and Global Precipitation. 1 Oct. 2013. <http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/science/indicators/weather-climate/precipitation.html>
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency2013cClimate Change. 1 Oct. 2013. <http://www.epa.gov/climatechange>
U.S. Global Change Research Program2009Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Science. 19 Dec. 2011. <http://library.globalchange.gov/downloads/download.php?id=126>
Utah State University2013Climate Change and Energy Minor. 6 Oct. 2013. <http://catalog.usu.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=7&poid=3701&hl=%22minor%22&returnto=search>
WalthallC.L.HatfieldJ.BacklundP.LengnickL.MarshallE.WalshM.AdkinsS.AilleryM.AinsworthE.A.AmmannC.AndersonC.J.BartomeusI.BaumgardL.H.BookerF.BradleyB.BlumenthalD.M.BunceJ.BurkeyK.DabneyS.M.DelgadoJ.A.DukesJ.FunkA.GarrettK.GlennM.GrantzD.A.GoodrichD.HuS.IzaurraldeR.C.JonesR.A.C.KimS-H.LeakyA.D.B.LewersK.MaderT.L.McClungA.MorganJ.MuthD.J.NearingM.OosterhuisD.M.OrtD.ParmesanC.PettigrewW.T.PolleyW.RaderR.RiceC.RivingtonM.RosskopfE.SalasW.A.SollenbergerL.E.SrygleyR.StöckleC.TakleE.S.TimlinD.WhiteJ.W.WinfreeR.Wright-MortonL.ZiskaL.H.2013Climate change and agriculture in the United States: Effects and adaptation. U.S. Dept. Agr. Tech. Bul. 1935
WarrenP.BarnettL.A.2012Train Extension Volunteers to Track Climate Change by Monitoring Phenology. 26 June 2013. <http://ashs.org/db/horttalks/detail.lasso?id=11554>