Ind. (AP) - While climate scientists often give a dreary picture of a
changing Earth, Michael Simmons doesn’t believe his plants will die in a
master gardener planted three apple trees for his last birthday.
University professors Ben Brabson and Rebecca Barthelmie gave a compelling
argument for the reality of climate change Tuesday during a presentation
at the Monroe County Public Library. They showed line graphs of carbon
dioxide in the atmosphere that takes off at an almost 90 degree angle
since the Industrial Revolution, and charts that suggest energy will only
continue to be drawn from coal and oil.
an instructor with the Hilltop Garden and Nature Center in Bloomington, is
equally convinced that “global warming” is a real and potentially
lasting phenomenon. Periods of drought and growing seasons are running
longer. Storm events are intensifying. These changes present challenges
for gardeners and farmers as they try to maintain their plants and soil.
is resigned to this change, but, as a gardener, Simmons has started to
work out a few ways that he can adapt to Indiana’s changing climate. At
a panel discussion on global warming and its effects on farming, he
followed two climate researchers in offering a silver lining - Granny
Smith apple trees can be planted in a region that previously could not
has moved from Zone 5B to Zone 6 in the United States Department of
Agriculture Plant Hardiness Map, meaning fruits and vegetables from more
southern states can be grown in Indiana. Nevertheless, heat stress on
native species will remain a problem as temperatures continue to increase
and topsoil continues to harden because of sustained periods of drought.
is going to be a different enterprise, and farming will be a different
enterprise, in years to come,” Simmons told The Herald-Times, before
offering a few solutions to residents who attended the session at the
tilling to soften up hard topsoil can actually reduce the amount of
organic matter in the soil. A reduction in that organic matter hinders
healthy plant growth.
suggested the increased use of compost to reinvigorate soil with organic
matter. A hundred pounds of compost can help the soil hold 195 pound of
water, which benefits plants during dry times. Compost can also add
granules to the soil to help water better flow through the ground and to
dry months, Simmons recommended covering soil with crop residue to prevent
topsoil from being beaten down by the sun.
thought is to utilize light colored mulch, which Simmons said could
provide an 8- to 10-degree cooling difference for a plant.
water, in a warming world, will be a difficult task in itself. As various
forms of irrigation become utilized for saving plants from heat stress and
maintaining farmers’ yields, water conservation should be important.
prefers drip situated near the roots of plants, rather than sprinkler
systems, which he said don’t efficiently get water to where plants need
it. At the same time, sprinklers often douse plants with moisture that
sits and creates a haven for harmful bacteria. Drip irrigation, he said,
is both more efficient - and targeting water to the plant’s root helps
keep it alive.
tulip tree scale was a terror for gardeners last summer, and, as Indiana
remains a suitable climate for the bug, it will continue to impact
product Simmons likes to use is “Surround” kaolin clay spray, which
contains 95 percent kaolin clay, a naturally reoccurring mineral. By
applying the clay to a plant, Surround creates a protective, white-film
surface that can shield fruit-bearing trees from insects. The clay can “easily
be rubbed off,” according to Surround’s own advertisements, and the
fruit can safely be eaten.
Brabson and Barthelmie had a tough time drawing optimism from their
audience after describing the incentives that energy companies have to
continue to use coal.
said the world can be run off of a half of a “Q” of energy, and there
is almost 200 “Q” of coal in the ground now. Even with estimates that
increase the planet’s need for energy over time, that leaves humans with
enough coal to meet the planet’s energy needs for 150 years.
Barthelmie and Babson agreed that about “99 percent” of scientists who
study the planet’s climate do think it is warming and that this is a
result of man’s endeavors. The issue is convincing politicians, who are
tied to dollar interests, that spending money in the short term for
alternative sources of energy could help avert significant impacts in the
looked at the idea of more efficient energy use as an “opportunity.”
not just about spending money. It’s about adapting,” Barthelmie said.
“Why not be more efficient? Why not have better vehicles?”