Farming can contribute to greenhouse emissions in several ways. Tractors and combines emit carbon dioxide, as does the manufacturing of nitrogen fertilizer and the tillage of soil, which helps decompose organic matter. But certain farming practices can also cause less carbon dioxide to be emitted, such as using herbicides instead of plowing fields to kill weeds, Petrie said.

Petrie will oversee efforts to communicate the study's finding to stakeholders through meetings with growers, public talks at research sites, and web-based techniques, including social media. Stakeholder concerns and interests will also be conveyed to researchers.

On the economics side, Capalbo and fellow OSU agricultural economist John Antle will interview growers and ask them about their management strategies, costs, concerns and priorities. They'll compile their answers with the data on cropping methods and evaluate the likelihood of farmers adopting certain techniques under various climate and policy scenarios, including when incentives are offered.

Farmers won't be willing to change unless the economics are favorable and the benefits outweigh the costs, Capalbo said. She cautions that short-term considerations shouldn't be the only focus.

"Agriculture has traditionally been looked at in terms of maximizing net returns or minimizing costs," she said, "but we need to look at managing the ecosystem so it's resilient to change and sustainable in the long run."

Philip Mote, the director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at OSU, and John Abatzoglou, a professor at the University of Idaho, will provide data on temperatures, rain, solar radiation, humidity and wind speed.

The area to be studied is made up of different microclimates, but in general has cold, wet winters and warm-to-hot, dry summers. Mote expects that in parts of the region, typically dry summers will become drier, or the duration of dry summer conditions will be extended. More precipitation may fall as rain instead of snow, he said.

Warmer temperatures would reflect what has been happening on a larger scale. The average annual temperature in the Pacific Northwest increased 1.4 degrees during the 20th century, Mote said. Compared with 2005, the average annual temperature for the Pacific Northwest is expected to increase 3-10 degrees by 2100, he said.

Climate change aside, Antle said, the research about farming techniques will be useful for growers around the globe.

"The research aims to understand what makes systems sustainable," Antle said. "This project will pay off regardless of the climate part."

The project also has a public outreach component. Recognizing that change often starts with younger generations, faculty at OSU's agricultural education and general agriculture department will work with the other partners to develop a curriculum for K-12 students that discusses the relationship between agriculture and climate change. OSU faculty will also help design workshops, materials and online resources for agriculture and science teachers that address this topic.

More information on the project, which is called Regional Approaches to Climate Change for Pacific Northwest Agriculture, is at