Agriculture in Oklahoma comprises more than 70% of land use in the Great Plains, contributes $3.9 billion annually, and includes range and cropland. These agricultural landscapes are fundamentally impacted by climate. Heat waves, water stress from depleted water resources, and drought are expected to greatly impact agriculture in this region, withering crops, decreasing yields, and shifting crop production patterns northward. Projected increases in precipitation in the Great Plains region are insufficient to mitigate the effects of heat waves, loss of soil moisture, and increased need for irrigation. Current agricultural usage will not have sufficient water resources to sustain in the landscape. It is predicted that the state of Oklahoma could see a decrease in wheat yields of 27% to 37% as temperatures rise above the tolerance level of the crop more frequently.
Ground-level ozone prevents production and starch storage in plants, causing injury and reduction in overall growth and yield. Soybeans, oats, alfalfa, clover, corn, and bean crops are especially sensitive to O3, and show damage at low levels. With increases in temperature and sunlight exposure, it is projected that ground-level ozone will have a deleterious effect on many crops in the Great Plains region, especially those nearest to cities.
Agricultural and forest insect pests that were previously unable to survive in the cooler regions of the Great Plains are expected to expand their geographical range, due to longer growing seasons and milder winters. These conditions will not only encourage earlier seasonal emergence of insect pests, but will encourage greater numbers with increased generations.
Approximately 70% of the agricultural industry in Oklahoma is livestock. At high temperatures, cattle production could experience losses as increased temperatures cause livestock to gain less weight and cause pastures to produce less, limiting forage.
Blue-green algal blooms are highly problematic for livestock, as they commonly use ponds as a water source, creating high susceptibility to inhale and consume BGA. An increase in occurrence of toxic BGA blooms could lead to increases in severe livestock illness and death.
Non-agricultural pests such as red fire ants and rodents, which are better adapted to warmer, drier climate, are projected to increase.
Currently, approximately 54% of Oklahoma is covered by forested lands. In the last decade, wildfires have been increasing in incidence, causing destruction across the state. Predicted increase in wildfire occurrence is expected to cause loss to these forests, loss of valuable species, and allow for invasive, noncommercial species to encroach.
Predicted growth of cities, agriculture, and range lands in the region will increase reliance on water resources, increasing competition between urban and rural users and lead to conflicts over water rights.
With an increase in both average temperatures in the warm months and an increase in extreme heat temperature events, the cost of cooling is also expected to increase.