Date of Award
Crop switching, which occurs when a novel crop type is introduced to an agricultural plot, is an adaptation strategy that is used in response to a variety of social, economic, and environmental factors. While past studies have investigated the motivations behind crop switching and examined its role in mitigating future agricultural losses due to climate change, understanding of where crop switching has occurred in the United States is more limited. In this paper, I develop a method of identifying the individual plots on which crop switching occurred in the contiguous United States. This method uses the Cropland Data Layer from the National Agricultural Statistics Service to determine where novel crops were introduced in each year from 2018 to 2021, based on the crop types that were grown in the same locations in the decade between 2008 and 2017. I find that crop switching occurred between 4.3% and 7.9% of land that was in continuous crop production between 2008 and 2021. Crop switching occurs most frequently in certain regions of the country, namely California, the southwest, southeast, and northern Great Plains. Rates of crop switching were lowest, however, lowest across counties in the Midwest, including the Corn Belt. Corn, soybeans, sorghum, cotton, alfalfa, and winter wheat were the most common crops that were switched into, though in 2019 and 2020 the most common switch was to new fallow or idle land. Due to the large amount of acreage, however, crop switching accounted for very little of land that was fallowed or used in the production of those crop types. Crop switching accounted for a higher proportion of the land used in certain fruits, vegetables, and double crops. This work creates a foundation for understanding the nature of past crop switching, the factors that influence whether or not farmers use crop switching as an adaptation practice, and predicting where future crop switching may occur.
Brittain, Christopher, "Identifying Past Crop Switching in the Contiguous United States: Where Farmers are Adapting to Changing Conditions" (2022). Food Systems Master's Project Reports. 24.