NC ADAPT Adaptive Management Strategies for Farms and Forests

The North Carolina Agriculture and Forestry Adaptation (NC ADAPT) Work Group investigates the impacts of climate change on North Carolina’s agriculture and forestry sectors, and has developed adaptive management recommendations that producers can use to build operational climate resilience. The Work Group created four stakeholder teams for Commodity Crops, Livestock, Forestry, and Specialty Crops - and developed reports of adaptation needs, priorities and strategies for each of the four focal sectors.

Climate change is impacting North Carolina’s agriculture, livestock and forests with extreme heat, fewer nights with below freezing temperatures, altered rainfall patterns, and increased frequency and severity of extreme events. Coastal working lands are also vulnerable to sea level rise and saltwater intrusion. 

NC Adapt first produced Keeping North Carolina's Farms and Forests Vibrant and Resilient: An Adaptive Management Planning Strategy in 2015, which offers a comprehensive overview of these industries in North Carolina, the relevant climate impacts, and a suggested adaptive management strategy for the state. These four reports build upon this foundational research with priorities and recommendations for each focal sector. 

Commodity Crops

This report provides recommendations for climate adaptive management practices for commodity crops (such as corn, soy, cotton, etc) in North Carolina. The Commodity Crops team focused their recommendations on: New and Existing Markets, Soil and Water Management, Barriers to Technology Adoption, Research, and Farmer Support.

Recommended research includes to "(i)dentify heat and drought tolerant cultivars, such as sorghum, that are close in nutrition to corn. More research is needed to identify and focus on cultivars that fit well with North Carolina’s regional climate, soils, water resources, etc.”   


Specialty Crops

Specialty crop growers in North Carolina produce fruits and vegetables, Christmas trees, flowers, and many other ornamental plants. North Carolina ranks second in the country in Christmas tree production, and according to the report, the industry produces 4.2 million Christmas trees on 1,370 farms spanning 40,000 acres and generating over $90 million annually. 

The Specialty Crop team identified key recommendations for adaptation, such as to:

  • Research and develop new crop varieties with characteristics of: drought resistance, disease or insect resistance, earlier or later yielding, day-length neutrality, night temperature tolerance, chilling requirements, etc.
  • Develop production practices that give farmers new cultural tools for managing weather-related risks such as diversified cropping systems, soil quality management to improve soil characteristics (like infiltration rate and water holding capacity) that buffer more variable precipitation, promote crop health and reduce pest pressures.



North Carolina’s animal agriculture industry is highly significant to its economy, while vulnerable to extreme weather events and climate impacts. According to the report, North Carolina “ranks as number two in the nation for the production of hogs and pigs, farm-raised trout and for all poultry and eggs cash receipts. The state is number three in the nation for turkeys, number four in the nation for broiler chickens and number five for farm-raised catfish. The value of livestock, poultry and their products in 2015 was $8.3 billion.”

Priority research and climate adaptation measures for the livestock industry are recommended for: Waste Management, Water Resources and Management, Heat Stress, Aquaculture, and Biosecurity.

Additional risk management tools and practices are suggested that could be adopted to support livestock producers’ climate resilience.


Forest Lands

Climate change has already brought severe impacts to North Carolina’s forests - including ice storms, hurricanes, drought, invasive species, tree diseases, and wildfires. This report offers many adaptation strategies as related to each of these impacts. Additional recommendations center on outreach and education measures to reach forest managers in support of adaptation, such as to:

  • Enhance initiatives and expand outreach/venues to inform and educate landowners and others on how to use climate change planning tools.
  • Develop a central repository of state and federal programs that land owners can access to find funding for forestland adaptation and BMP measures that reduce the impacts of intense wind and precipitation, flood, drought, wildfire and invasive species.


Publication Date: January 2017

Related Organizations:

  • North Carolina Agriculture and Forestry Adaptation Work Group (NC-Adapt)


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment
  • Policy analysis/recommendations

States Affected:


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