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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Drivers of Change Impacting Oklahoma

Drivers of Change Impacting Oklahoma

 

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Preface

DASNR Goals

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CLIMATE VARIABILITY

Oklahoma has always suffered from extremes in weather, resulting in increased risks to human safety, agricultural production, and shifts in natural communities of plants and animals. The recent increased number and severity of floods, droughts, extreme high and low temperatures, storms and wildfires in Oklahoma are similar to recent increased variability in climatic conditions worldwide. These changing conditions will pose a challenge to human health and to native populations of plants and animals, as well as create habitat conditions more conducive to invasive species (e.g., Eastern redcedar, sericea lespedeza, zebra mussels, feral hogs, fire ants, kudzu, etc.).

Current management strategies for agricultural production, natural resources and human shelter will have to be modified to meet the challenges of the increased variability and extremes in weather. Research, Extension and teaching efforts will likely impact plant and animal breeding, new crops, irrigation management and technology, cropping systems, animal and human housing design and technology, long and short-term weather forecasting, pest management, restoration practices and natural resource
sustainability.

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ENERGY

The increasing demands for energy sources to provide lighting, heating, cooling, power, transportation and food production systems will require development of new sources of energy, new and more efficient management systems, and improved distribution systems. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) calls for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) annual renewable fuel standard to rise steadily from 5.4 billion gallons (Bgal) in 2008, eventually reaching 36 Bgal annually by 2022. The 25x25 alliance has a self-established goal of producing 25 percent of our nation’s energy from renewable resources such as wind, solar and biofuels by the year 2025.

Recent initiatives by the Department of Defense (e.g., the Navy’s Great Green Fleet) and commercial aviation industry (e.g., “Farm to Fly” initiative) call for greater use of renewable biofuels in the production of jet fuels and marine diesel. Potential alternative energy sources in Oklahoma include biofuels developed from oilseed, lignocellulosic and sugar crops, animal waste and other feedstocks. Oklahoma (particularly western Oklahoma) also is well positioned to develop wind and solar power.

Development of a sustainable energy future for Oklahoma also is dependent on conservation of existing energy resources, both renewable and nonrenewable. Efforts within the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (DASNR) will be primarily focused through the Biobased Products and Energy Center with the mission of developing sustainable bioenergy and biorefinery industries in Oklahoma. DASNR faculty and staff will develop and provide teaching, research and Extension programs focused on sustainable energy sources; biomass production, harvest and transport, and biomass conversion; and energy conservation for agricultural and residential uses.

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PUBLIC POLICY AND GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS

A major driver for production agriculture and DASNR research, Extension and teaching programs will be public policy and government regulations. Areas of impact include environmental regulations imposed by EPA, price support programs in future farm bills, changes in the tax code, trade agreements,regulatory affairs (e.g., food safety), banking and finance policy, biosecurity, etc.

It is incumbent upon DASNR to assist producers to remain economically viable in the face of ever- changing government regulations and policies. Input from all disciplines within DASNR will be required to develop best management practices necessary for production agriculture. Potential areas of research, Extension and teaching include development and evaluation of agricultural policy, economics, marketing, crop and animal production, pesticide use and application, food safety, postharvest processing and engineering technology strategies.

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LAND USE AND NATURAL RESOURCES

Over a 15-year period (1992-2007), Oklahoma experienced a 29 percent increase in the number of farms, a 10 percent increase in the number of those farms less than 180 acres in size, and an 8 percent decrease in farm owners who described their occupation as “farming.” Reasons for this growing number of small “nontraditional” farms are varied and not well documented.

Conversion of cropland for alternative uses (i.e., residential, recreational, agritourism, etc.) continues to grow statewide causing habitat fragmentation and increasing the urban/wildlife interface. This is just one example of the many changes in land use underway in Oklahoma. These shifting patterns of land use will require careful analysis to determine the potential impacts on agricultural production capacity and efficiency, along with possible implications on the conservation and judicious use of Oklahoma’s natural resources.

Changes in land ownership will impact the fire cycle, grazing management, forest investments and wildlife habitats. Comprehensive research, Extension and teaching packages are needed to inform and guide Oklahoma landowners and other stakeholders on the best management practices necessary to sustain agriculture, housing and community development, and conserve our natural resources for generations to come.

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MARKET VOLATILITY

Many agricultural commodity and input prices have recently reached record levels in Oklahoma. Increased price volatility comes with these higher levels. The reasons for higher and more volatile prices are not totally clear, but may include: a) increased globalization of market changes anywhere in the world impacts Oklahoma prices; b) rising energy prices, which impact the cost of agricultural production and consumer goods, as well as the demand for agricultural products to produce energy – in turn, energy markets are volatile; c) continued population and economic growth causing increased demand for food and other agricultural-based consumer goods, hence higher prices; d) climatic conditions – which impact food, fiber and fuel production – and have become increasingly volatile, thus causing more production uncertainty; e) many countries with faltering economies that appear not to be responsive to past policies – this creates uncertainty for all industries including agriculture; and f) changing government policy and regulation with regard to trade regulations, price supports, crop insurance, environmental issues, etc. causing market/price uncertainty.

With high and volatile prices comes greater risk and greater uncertainty about the type of long-term investments to make in agriculture. In response, producers may seek the following as well as other forms of assistance: a) marketing education and information, b) new production and management strategies to deal with higher risk, c) strategies for managing under new policies, and d) new government policies to deal with volatile prices and income.

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PESTS AND INVASIVE SPECIES

Organisms that negatively affect the health and safety of humans and animals - or production of food, fiber or other societal needs - are considered pests. Recent outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, development of Roundup® resistant weed species, the pine beetle epidemic in the Western U.S. forests, the spread of Asian soybean rust in the U.S., the mosquito-borne West Nile virus and economic losses due to tick-borne livestock diseases are prime examples of the impact of pests and the need for effective, sustainable control measures. Often, these organisms are endemic to the area within which they are found, but they negatively impact human needs. Increasingly, non-native plants and animals are being moved throughout the world and becoming established in areas in which they have not been previously found. Often, these exotic species negatively impact their new environment due to increases in numbers and/or displacement of native species.

Humans have dealt with pests using a myriad of management practices for centuries, and as pest species have evolved and/or moved into new areas, we have had to develop new and more effective management strategies. Pests often adapt to control strategies such as genetically resistant varieties or chemical treatment (e.g., herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, nematicides, etc.), thus, making the  development of new control measures an on-going challenge.

Integrated pest management (IPM), which simultaneously utilizes multiple control strategies (e.g., chemicals, genetic resistance, natural predators, cropping practices, etc.), offers the possibility of economical, longer-lasting control. Based on the history of the development of pest species and populations and our management strategies, we can assume that the recognition, identification of pests and development of evolving management strategies will be necessary for the foreseeable future. DASNR faculty and staff will discover and extend knowledge of the biology, populations, ecology and management strategies of pests including arthropods, pathogens, plants and vertebrate animals.

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POPULATION AND DEMOGRAPHICS

The population of Oklahoma is growing and changing in a number of ways. Oklahoma’s population (and the nation’s population) is becoming relatively more urban. Future political representation will reflect this. There are many urban issues that DASNR has existing expertise to address including lawn and garden care, household pests, energy and water conservation, nutrition, green space, family relations and youth development, to name a few.

Minority populations, particularly the Hispanic population, are growing in number. In addition, Oklahoma has a large Native American population. Both populations have cultures that tie closely to natural resources, agriculture and consumer demand. Individuals with full-time occupations in agriculture are declining. However, the total number of farms is slowly rising. One of the most rapid rates of increase is in small farm numbers. Some of these farms are small specialty crop farms, but many of them can be classified as “lifestyle” farms populated by people seeking a rural-life environment but with limited backgrounds in agriculture.

A growing number of citizens have no experience with agriculture and, thus, a low level of knowledge and appreciation of food and fiber. Independent of whether these individuals choose to be small farmers or just citizens who vote or buy our products, we need to orient portions of academic and Extension education programs to their background. The age of farm operators/owners is expected to continue to rise with an increasing number of land owners being absentee landlords. The implications of these two trends are that there will be larger changes in farm ownership and management methods over the next decade than have occurred in the past decade.

What ownership and management patterns will evolve? How will these impact rural communities? What will happen to family farm numbers and/or farm size? How will native plant communities be affected by lack of management? Students enrolling in the college of agriculture with little or no background in agriculture continue to increase in number. Likewise, in the last decade, the number of female students has risen dramatically. Female students now outnumber male students. In a broader, worldwide context, 1 billion people are estimated to be food insecure, and the world’s population is expected to double in the next 25 years.

Changes in income and climate continue to affect the needs expressed through these populations. Some demand higher quality and type of nutrition in their diets, while others must be provided the means just to meet basic needs. Many of the issues created by the population and demographic trends are important to OSU researchers and educators.

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QUALITY OF LIFE

As economic development continues to progress and generate greater productivity and stronger financial security, quality of life will become increasingly important. Many DASNR programs strive to improve quality of life.

Major DASNR programs contributing to quality of life include: a) undergraduate and graduate programs that train students to succeed in personally rewarding and financially secure professions; b) Extension adult education programs that focus on teaching quality of life topics including nutrition, child care, financial management, housing, consumer economics, family relations, healthy lifestyles, etc.; and c) 4-H youth development programs that teach general life skills and occupational skills related to agriculture and other professions.

Development of human capital is central to improving the quality of life. To produce the next generation of leaders, undergraduate and graduate students need access to leadership training through coursework that develops critical thinking skills and creative problem solving, along with developing their communication skills through individual presentations and group debates and presentations. Extracurricular activities - such as judging teams, Oklahoma Agricultural Leadership Encounter, Animal Science Leadership Alliance, internships, the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, and many other clubs and activities - give students unique opportunities to develop their leadership skills to become tomorrow’s leaders and advocates for agriculture. Oklahoma is faced with severe quality of life issues such as teenage pregnancy, high school dropouts, high incarceration, bankruptcy and hunger incidence. Chronic disease is prevalent with obesity creating higher rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Quality of life is directly related to educational outcomes. Working toward increasing the number of college graduates is critical to the state socioeconomic well-being.

Safe food, water and a clean environment are essential to quality of life. Likewise, rural- and urban-based recreational activities that are biobased are increasing in demand as recreational experiences for enhancing the quality of life. Examples include utilization of land, lakes, rivers, wildlife, forests or rangeland used for gardening, fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, horseback riding, bird watching, golfing, public parks and more.

More specific to rural Oklahoma is the challenge of enhancing rural community vitality and sustainability. Job creation (both agricultural and nonagricultural) is vital. Rural communities are challenged to provide quality education, health care, a wide variety of retail stores, recreational opportunities, communications and governmental services (fire, police, roads, sewage, water, etc.).  Without these community attributes, the quality of life for rural Oklahomans will be reduced.

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WATER

An ever-widening imbalance in the supply and demand of water will dramatically impact the future of agricultural production and community development in Oklahoma. While water demands rise statewide, water supply will increasingly come under pressure, particularly in areas of high demand such as the Oklahoma Panhandle and urban residential areas. Surface and groundwater level declines, resulting from withdrawals for irrigation that cannot be recharged through precipitation, are a growing concern.

Innovative approaches are needed to develop and deploy efficient and sustainable livestock and crop production systems under the projected limited-water environments of the future. A shift to more reliance on rain-fed systems, coupled with new and improved technologies to maximize production per inch of precipitation, will shape research, Extension and teaching efforts of the future.

Capturing, conserving and recycling water from a variety of sources for use in livestock and crop production will supplement rainfall, where appropriate. The quality of water moving through Oklahoma agricultural systems and urban developments will be impacted. Creative technologies developed to enhance water quality in agriculture and natural resource settings will be adaptable for many industrial and municipal water system uses.

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PUBLIC PREFERENCES AND EXPECTATIONS

The individual consumer has a set of preferences and values that are dependent upon culture, education, advertising, income and individual tastes, among a plethora of other factors. Consumer and public preferences affect issues important to DASNR clientele in three major ways:  1) they affect consumer demand for the consumption of food and fiber commodities and products; 2) they affect government policies; and 3) they directly affect how food industry firms operate, such as using greener practices or more environmentally friendly methods.

Markets are a major mechanism for transmitting consumer preferences to producers and, thus, guiding the resource use of a nation. However, society has found that not all of their preferences are adequately addressed by markets. Government policy (that is driven by voters and citizen political action groups) often attempts to regulate or influence markets where markets fail or public goods exist. Likewise, citizens seek conditions and products for which markets do not exist, such as clean air, protection of endangered species, development of biobased fuels, etc. Preferences and opinions have directly caused substantial changes in major companies’ purchasing patterns and retail offerings. For example, Walmart and McDonalds now require their suppliers to be more green and sustainable, while at the same time they are providing products perceived to be healthier and more environmentally friendly. Public opinion will matter in issues relating to animal welfare, organic foods, local foods, support for small farms, sustainability of production, environmental integrity and energy conservation. Production of a safe and wholesome food supply for human consumption is important to good human health and well-being. America’s population expects their food supplies to be safe.

Markets, government agencies and firm managers work best when a nation’s citizenry are well educated and have access to unbiased, scientifically based information.

Publicly supported land-grant universities - via their integrated teaching, research and Extension function - are a major source of both education and unbiased, scientifically based information. Our forefathers recognized this when they created land-grant universities to educate the working class.

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TECHNOLOGY

Advances in communication technology have helped revolutionize the way people work and make decisions. Social media platforms provide multiple ways for personal interaction. The expanded use of smartphones, tablet computers and mobile apps has brought about important changes in the way people access information. Increasingly, traditional media channels couple with social media avenues to give individuals unprecedented control over the information they seek. As a result, reaching clients with programs and information is becoming more complicated. For DASNR’s faculty and staff, the constantly evolving media environment will continue to influence program delivery methods and interaction with our students and stakeholders.

Advanced technologies in the laboratory, greenhouses and field have resulted in tremendous advances in agriculture. Biomolecular technologies provide us the ability to develop transgenic plants and animals incorporating disease resistance and increased growth potentials. Advances in microtechnologies have resulted in advances in sensory devices and robotics that have provided increased efficiencies of inputs and operations. DASNR faculty and staff will continue to use the developing and new technologies to provide improved animal breeds, plant varieties and to gain a better understanding of life mechanisms.

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Opening Screen

Preface

DASNR Goals

PDF Document

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078
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