Some crops migrate north with warmer temperatures
Statewide, North Dakota's growing season since 1879 has lengthened by 12 days, says state climatologist Adnan Akyuz at North Dakota State University. Before the 1970s, corn just wasn't grown north of Bismarck. "Now we're seeing it all the way up to the Canadian border," he says.
According to Akyuz's calculations "16% of the total heat necessary to mature a corn plant in Fargo is due to the climate change."
Climate change a net positive
The United States has the largest amount of arable land of any nation, and climate change has only made it better.
"We have more area where production is limited by cold rather than by heat. So on net, we come off a bit better," McCarl says.
In North Dakota, that has contributed to an economic boom. Growers are getting harvests that would have been unimaginable years ago, says Mike Ostlie, an agronomist at the Carrington Research Extension Center of North Dakota State University, about 150 miles northwest of Fargo. "Used to be, every three to five years there was a crop failure. Now I don't know when that last happened."
Things are so good that the long drain of children moving off farms is beginning to reverse, says Steve Metzger, a farm management expert at Carrington.