Projects Funded for Itai Trilnick


Using Micro Geoengineering for Adaptation to Climate Change in Agriculture

David Zilberman, Ben Gordon, Itai Trilnick, and Scott Kaplan


Specific Objectives of the Project

1. To develop a conceptual framework for assessing the value of geoengineering techniques, in this case modifying weather on the level of a tree crop, to adapt to the effects of climate change.
2. To apply the use of kaolin clay to enhance the chill portions necessary for adequate bloom out, which ultimately drives yield.
3. Conduct a literature review and interview Farm Advisors to obtain quantitative parameters for current technology practices and allocation of inputs in response to shorter chill portions.
4. To assess the economic benefit of this technology under various climate scenarios in the Central Valley of California.

Summary of Results

Climate change is likely to increase temperatures in California in a manner that will affect crop productivity. Already we have seen increases in winter temperatures that reduce chill factor, which is essential for blooming of fruits and nuts. Insufficient chill can result in drastic impacts on yield. One approach to deal with it is through micro-climate engineering, namely lowering the temperature around the tree during its dormancy before blooming. Farmers and extension developed a technique where they spray orchards with a clay-like substance (kaolin) to reduce solar radiation. This micro-climate engineering technique is estimated to reduce losses.

Our project developed a methodology to predict the impact of this adaptation technique applied to the case of pistachios. One of the challenges is that temperature throughout a season is a random variable and varies over space and location. Working with agronomists, we obtained estimates of the costs and impacts of kaolin application under different scenarios, and then estimated the future expected discounted gains from application of kaolin to pistachios over various time periods. Our analysis takes into account the growth, demand and supply of pistachios, and possible changes in acreage as part of adaptation to climate change.

Our results suggest that in 2030, expected annualized profit gains from micro-climate engineering in California pistachios is between $214 to 612 million, depending on the growth in demand and the extent of adaptation. But consumers gain much more, $643 million to $1.84 billion, through lower prices and increased consumption. These impacts are significant given that the revenue of the industry is between $1 to $2 billion annually. Expected gains are higher if variability is increasing, and the early results suggest that micro-climate engineering may benefit other crops and address other sources of losses as well.