Specialist Interview with Lauchlin Titus

CPAg at AgMatters LLC, Vassalboro, ME

  1. What is your current position and how long have you served in this position?  

I am a certified professional agronomist and have owned a crop consulting business since January 2003.  I have been involved in Maine agriculture since the late 1960s.

  1. Please describe changes you have observed in the weather since you’ve started in your position.

Patterns of extreme that last longer… hotter, colder, wetter, drier.  Changes in weeds, diseases, and insects.

  1. What types of impacts have these weather changes had on the agricultural sector you work with? 

Warm springs that trigger fruit bud advancement followed by frost episodes at “normal” dates that result in crop loss.  Periods with several inches of rain over 2-4 days resulted in longer periods of saturated soils.  A very cool and wet season in 2009 that resulted in Pythophtora capsicigetting established on numerous vegetable farms that had never experienced it before.  It is a “forever” problem once it gets established.

  1. How have the farmers you work with responded to changes in the weather?

More irrigation installed to deal with dry periods.  More drainage installed to deal with wet soils.  Dramatic increase in number of vegetable farmers using raised beds for production to help manage P. capsiciand other problems caused by saturated soils.  More adoption of no-till practices by dairy farms and vegetable farms to improve soil ability to deal with weather challenges.

  1. What strategies do you suggest farmers consider to adjust to changing weather?

Raised beds with drip irrigation in vegetable production.  No-till for dairy farms that have not adopted it yet.  No late varieties of blueberries and raspberries to avoid having to deal with spotted wing drosophila.  Better utilization of high tunnel production space.  Improve crop rotation.  Identify crops that work the best vs. those that aren’t performing as well and make production and marketing changes accordingly.

  1. What tools or information would be most helpful to the farmers you work with in order to respond to the issue of changes in average weather, or weather variability?

Soil moisture meters and dataloggers.  Raised bed mulch layers in berry and vegetable production.  Tissue sampling to monitor nutrient loss/uptake.

  1. What types of federal and/or state policy initiatives would support your stakeholders to make adaptation or mitigation investments, and reduce losses associated with weather variability?

[Programs that would] be more supportive of land drainage efforts and possibly allow for mitigation offsets on non-agricultural land if necessary.  Low interest loans for equipment and practices aimed at dealing with weather variability that results in some degree of risk management (irrigation, raised bed mulch layer, no-till equipment, drainage installation).