US (NC): Researchers use working farm to cultivate climate resilience in agriculture

Researchers at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University are working on studies to help farmers adapt to changing weather. It's one of several initiatives taking place at the university's working farm.

The nearly 500-acre site serves as a research and demonstration farm. It's where new crops and farming practices are tested before introducing them to the state's farming community. One of the goals is to find new varieties of fruit trees and plants that can better withstand warmer winters. Lydian Bernhardt with NC A&T's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences says researchers are also looking at climate impacts on livestock.

"Sows when they get too hot, they can't produce milk," says Bernhardt. "There is a plant called moringa. The effects of that on heat-stressed mother pigs is a study that we just got funded that's currently underway." N.C. A&T focuses on helping small, limited-resource, and minority farmers find ways to thrive and meet challenges.

These types of climate studies are important because agriculture is the state's top industry. Bernhardt says many student workers help keep operations going at the site and provide learning opportunities. The production farm also serves the community.

"If you are experimenting on what form of tillage — high, medium, or low — grows the best watermelon, at the end of the day, you are going to have watermelon, so you know you give it all over to someone who can really use it."

Bernhardt says this year, the university farm gave away nearly 30,000 tons of produce to the Second Harvest Food Bank, Backpack Beginnings, and other local organizations that address food insecurity.

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