Apr 24, 2023 - Climate

Climate change is shifting Columbus' growing season

A gardener spreads compost around a Pasque flower. Photo: Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

It's the start of the spring planting season. But what we plant in Ohio — and when — could look different in the coming decades due to climate change.

Threat level: The projected shift could be so drastic that our iconic state tree, the buckeye, would fare better in cooler climates … Up North. Unfathomable.

Driving the news: A recent map from the U.S. Department of Agriculture highlights how our planting zones are expected to transform by 2070.

What's happening: The USDA uses average minimum winter temperatures to create its Plant Hardiness Zone maps.

What they're saying: "Picture a current-day Arkansas summer — we're trending in that direction by the end of the 21st century," Ohio State University climatologist Aaron Wilson tells Axios.

  • Our range already warmed out of zone 5 when maps were updated in 2012, he notes.

Zoom in: This means Ohio farmers may someday swap corn and soybeans for cotton and rice.

  • Shorter, warmer winters could also change how we maintain crops as they're exposed to new pests and diseases.

Between the lines: The warming could also disrupt a delicate ecosystem of native plants, pollinators and wildlife that depend on each other — or prevent your favorite flowers from thriving in your garden.

What you can do: Individuals' small actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can add up. (Though systemic change will also be required.)

  • Make your home more energy efficient, such as setting your thermostat a little colder in the winter and warmer in the summer.
  • Drive less, or carpool.
  • Bring reusable bags to the grocery store.
  • Recycle and compost your waste instead of sending it to the landfill.

The bottom line: "The worst thing we can do is not talk about it or plan for it," Wilson says.


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