Decline in crop yields expected to continue in next decade

• January 14, 2013
A dry cornfield after harvest

Dry cornfield, Creative Commons: Cathy Haglund, 2009

New research is adding to the growing body of literature documenting how a warming climate will hurt food production and security.  Researchers from the UK predict that the increased likelihood of severe heatwaves caused by climate change will cause agricultural yields to drop, exacerbating the global food crisis.

Using corn production in France as an example, the researchers studied how yields were impacted by the number of days in which the temperature rose above 32 degrees Celsius.  They found that by the 2020s, when hot days are expected to occur over large areas of France where previously they were uncommon, yields of corn could fall by 12% compared to today.

“Our research rings alarm bells for future food security,” said Ed Hawkins, at the University of Reading, who worked on the corn study. “Over the last 50 years, developments in agriculture, such as fertilisers and irrigation, have increased yields of the world’s staple foods, but we’re starting to see a slowdown in yield increases.”

The world’s food crisis, where 1 billion people are already going hungry and a further 2 billion people will be affected by 2050, is set to worsen as increasing heatwaves reverse the rising crop yields seen over the last 50 years, according to new research.

Severe heatwaves, such as those currently seen in Australia, are expected to become many times more likely in coming decades  due to climate change. Extreme heat led to 2012 becoming the hottest year in the US on record and the worst corn crop in two decades.

Read More: The Guardian>>

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About the Author

Karl Burkart is the Digital Communications Director for the GCCA, the Global Call for Climate Action, and TckTckTck, a network of 400+ diverse organizations working around the world for greater action on the growing problem of climate change. Karl also blogs on technology and the environment for a variety of publications. You can follow him on Twitter @greendig.

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