Study: Climate change affecting crop production

Jonathan Knutson
Forum News Service

It’s likely that climate change already is affecting world crop production — hurting it in some areas, helping it in others but on balance pushing it lower, according to a new University of Minnesota-led study.

“There are winners and losers, and some countries that are already food insecure fare worse,” said lead author Deepak Ray of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.

The study, conducted with researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Copenhagen, used weather and reported crop data to evaluate the potential impact of observed climate change on 10 crops: barley, cassava, maize, oil palm, rapeseed, rice, sorghum, soybean, sugarcane and wheat. The 10 accounted for a combined 83% of all calories produced on cropland.

The study was published in the Public Library of Science (PLOS) journal, PLOS One. The peer-reviewed open access scientific journal covers primary research in any branch of science and medicine.

A key finding of the study is that the effect of climate changes varies among the 10 top crops. They range from a drop of 13.4% for oil palm to an increase of 3.5% for soybean.

Overall, there’s an average reduction of about 1% of consumable food calories from the 10 top crops, with an average reduction of about 0.5% for all consumable food calories, according to the report.

Other findings of the study include:

  • Climate change generally is hurting food production in Europe, Southern Africa and Australia, generally helping it in Latin America. Results are mixed in Asia, North America and Central America.
  • Half of all “food-insecure countries” have experienced declines in crop production because of climate change, as have some affluent countries in Western Europe.
  • Climate change has increased yields of some crops and cut into yields of some crops in parts of the Upper Midwest.
  • Overall, U.S. barley, rice and wheat yields fell, while maize, sorghum, soybean and sugar cane yield rose, according to the report.

The report noted that “crop yields and production are not only impacted from climate change, but also drive climate change.”

To read the study: