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The Weirding of Minnesota Weather

Minnesota Gardens: New Plants and Landscapes for a Hotter World

Once in a while, in the course of living our lives, something happens that grabs our attention and indicates something larger is going on. John Erwin, professor in the Department of Horticultural Science at the University of Minnesota, relates his own realization: "As a graduate student in the '80s, working on temperature effects on
plant growth, two things were obvious. One was that CO2 levels were increasing. I could see it in my  photosynthesis meter every year." (Prior to 1980, outdoor CO2 levels measured 300 ppm; during the 1980s, at
the time of Erwin's graduate studies, the levels measured 333 ppm; in 2017, the levels measured 400 ppm.)

"The other was that high temperatures are a common problem in greenhouses and outdoor crop production, and those high temperatures were decreasing plant quality." This spurred Erwin's PhD thesis, which involved the intentional moderation of daytime and nighttime temperatures in order to influence plant growth.

During his short course, Minnesota Gardens: New Plants and Landscapes for a Hotter World (May 8), Erwin will make connections between the "weirding" of our global climate and the concerns we have about our home gardens. As with the rest of the world, Minnesota is experiencing extreme weather that we need to acknowledge and adjust to. Climatologist and meteorologist "Dr. Mark Seeley has great data showing that last year in Minnesota was the first time ever that six counties had both flooding and drought events," Erwin notes. "As our climate changes, temperature effects on plants are influencing vegetable yields in gardens and flowering annuals in our yards. The varieties and cultivars that perform best in Minnesota are also
changing!"

As part of the course, participants will learn what the University has been working on in the realm of high-temperature-tolerant plants, as well as how to grow plants indoors, year-round practices that are as practical as they are important.

"Both novice and experienced gardeners should change how they garden and the plants they select for successful gardening and landscapes. I would also like to show how the University is addressing changes in CO2 and temperature to ensure we have successful gardens and landscapes in the future."