Estimating the Future Agriculture Freight Transportation Network Needs due to Climate Change using Remote Sensing and Regional Climate Models

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Final Report

Primary Investigators

Janey Camp
Vanderbilt University
2301 Vanderbilt Place
Nashville, TN 37235


A reoccurring challenge with increasing fuel prices is optimization of multi- and inter-modal freight transport to move products most efficiently. Projections for the future of agriculture in the U.S. combined with regional climate models indicate a shift in warm temperatures northward and potential shift in agricultural growing seasons and conditions for optimized crop yield which leads to a potential change in how much and where freight to move these crops will be needed in the future. Given recent history, we are already experiencing changes in regional weather trends and growing seasons likely due to climate change and these can be used as indicators of future changes. It would be beneficial for freight carriers to have an awareness of where and to what extent fleets will be needed to continue export of grains from the upper Midwest to the rest of the U.S. and the world. This project seeks to use recent historical climate and crop information combined with regional climate modeling and other tools to project forward the demands on freight transportation for the upper Midwest grain distribution in the future.


The objective of this project is to utilize recent historical trends in agriculture growth and yield patterns in the U.S. Midwest using remote sensing techniques and then extrapolate to future growth using regional climate forecasting.


  1. Evaluate recent trends in crop yields and shifts
  2. Develop any correlations between historic regional climate and crop yield/growing patterns for use in future projections
  3. Approximate future locations of crops that will be grown in upper Midwest in 2050
  4. Use projected crop areas and climatic projections to estimate yield at appropriate harvesting times as input into freight routing and demand tools
  5. Provide an estimate of the multi-modal demands and routes for freight to move agriculture from Midwest to lower Mississippi for export

Project Information

  • Duration: 15 months
  • Dates: 7/1/2014 – 9/30/2015
  • Budget: $160,000 (UTC funds) and $160,000 (match funds)
  • Student Involvement: Two graduate students
  • Modal Orientation: Highway/Rail/Maritime
  • Project ID: CFIRE 09-20
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