Climate change will cut cereal yields, model predicts—technological advances could offset those losses

May 16, 2017 by Pat Bailey

Climate change will likely cause wheat and barley yields to decline by 17 to 33 percent by the end of the century, predicts a new statistical model developed by researchers at the University of California, Davis, and Cornell University.

The study, based on 65 years of weather records and wheat and barley yield data from France, provides some of the first evidence of the negative effects of warming on wheat and barley yields in Western Europe. The findings are reported online in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

The study is of particular importance because wheat is the most widely grown crop in the world and, along with rice, one of the top two sources of calories for human consumption.

"This is not to be interpreted as saying that yield will decrease regardless of any technological improvements that may be made in the future," said co-author Matthew Gammans, a UC Davis graduate student working with Professor Pierre Mérel in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

"It does suggest, however, that will lessen the rate of any yield improvements that will be achieved by technological advances," Gammans said.

New statistical model for climate impacts

The new model, developed by Gammans, Mérel and Cornell economist Ariel Ortiz-Bobea, is one of the first flexible statistical models applied to wheat and other cereal crops. Model flexibility, allowing for extremely high or low temperatures to have very different effects than the average temperature, is important in understanding the true effects of temperatures on yields. This model was developed from data spanning 1950 to 2015.

The newly published study focused on three major crops: , barley and spring barley, all of which are primarily watered by rainfall, rather than being irrigated. The winter crops are planted in the fall, lying dormant through the winter and then growing during spring and summer. Spring barley is planted in spring and grows through summer.

Key predictions

Based on the historical weather and yield data, the new model predicted that by the end of the century:

  • Yields are projected to decrease by 21 percent for winter wheat, 17.3 percent for and 33.6 percent for spring barley under the most severe warming scenario.
  • The negative impacts of increased heat during climate warming won't be offset by a decrease in extreme cold temperatures during winter.
  • Possible increases in rainfall would help mitigate the effects of heat stress but would not be sufficient to offset the negative impacts of warming temperatures.

The did predict that if technological improvements continue on their current trajectory, they could offset most of the of climate change. Such improvements could include new heat-tolerant crop varieties and improved farming methods.

"We now want to explore what role adaptation to climate change will play in mitigating negative impacts on yields of , and other cereal grains," Gammans said.

Explore further: Virus infecting Southern Idaho wheat, barley crops, forcing tough choices for growers

More information: Matthew Gammans et al. Negative impacts of climate change on cereal yields: statistical evidence from France, Environmental Research Letters (2017). DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aa6b0c

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17 comments

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SamB
1.7 / 5 (6) May 16, 2017
Climate change will cut cereal yields, model predicts


Those same models predicted that by 2010 the Maldives would be under water.
antialias_physorg
4.6 / 5 (9) May 16, 2017
Those same models predicted that by 2010 the Maldives would be under water.

Erm..no. They predict that by 2100 oceans will rise by about a meter - with the Maledives high point being at 1.8 meters above sea level.

You should really learn to read. Or stop spreading fake news. In any case: you're making yourself look like an uneducated fool.
jeffensley
2.3 / 5 (6) May 16, 2017
In essence what this is saying is.. if we continue to adapt to conditions (something farmers have been doing for centuries) we probably won't notice anything.
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (8) May 16, 2017
In essence what this is saying is.. if we continue to adapt to conditions (something farmers have been doing for centuries) we probably won't notice anything.

Erm..no. That's not what it is saying, because there is a limit what technology can do.

Just ignoring every problem and saying "scientists will figure out a solution" is not a viable strategy - especially not with a problem that puts us on a tight schedule. Science isn't magic where you just wish for stuff and it becomes true.

It's a bit like believing in Moore's law. Just because it has held up until now there's no reason to believe it will hold forever.

So we have a choice: believe that science will solve the issue in time (and bet our lives on this) or apply a little bit of common sense to prevent the problem in the first place. Seems like a no-brainer which we should do.
jeffensley
1 / 5 (1) May 16, 2017
"It's a bit like believing in Moore's law. Just because it has held up until now there's no reason to believe it will hold forever."

I agree with that statement 100%. My founded faith that Nature and man can and will adapt doesn't mean I believe we should do nothing to address the "greenhouse" side of things... but I'd argue that we're already moving in that direction. Renewables continue to grow as a percentage of our total power generation. Common sense to you is unnecessary increase in government bureaucracy/oversight to me.
JongDan
1 / 5 (6) May 16, 2017
Those same models predicted that by 2010 the Maldives would be under water.

Erm..no. They predict that by 2100 oceans will rise by about a meter - with the Maledives high point being at 1.8 meters above sea level.

You should really learn to read. Or stop spreading fake news. In any case: you're making yourself look like an uneducated fool.

You know who should learn to read? The panicking president of Maldives and the scaremongering reporters who love to mention that he has already bought land to resettle inhabitants of his country.
BackBurner
2.9 / 5 (9) May 16, 2017
So a warming climate will reduce grain production? This is new.

Warming increases the amount of arable land. It can't possibly reduce grain production.

"The new model, developed by Gammans, Mérel and Cornell economist Ariel Ortiz-Bobea..."

Oh. Sorry. It's just a model.
Tom_Andersen
2.5 / 5 (6) May 16, 2017
There is a simple reason that yields are peaking in the EU. Over Regulation.
EmceeSquared
3.9 / 5 (7) May 16, 2017
No, it is not new that the Earth's warming climate will reduce grain production. This study offers new details. Warming decreases net arable land, as some that is already nearly too hot becomes simply too hot.

You are just blathering with no science to back it up. You are a climate denier yammering on a science site in mere contradiction of well practiced science. Your willful ignorance backs up the polluters who are destroying our civilization. Shut up already.

BackBurner:
So

EmceeSquared
3 / 5 (4) May 16, 2017
No, the simple reason is that our agriculture technology is not advancing as fast as our industry is destroying our climate and the rest of the environment agriculture requires. Because we haven't had enough regulation preventing the pollution you're defending with your inane substitute for logic.

The simple reason that you are lying is that you are stupid and evil.

Tom_Andersen:
There is a simple

Shootist
2 / 5 (4) May 16, 2017
Warmer weather than today insured that the Vikings could grow wheat and barley on the island of Greenland, 1000 years ago.

Too cold for that today, I tell you what. However it bears mentioning that the Grennlanders are quite chuffed that the warming of the past 200 years allows them to grow cabbages, where cabbages once would not grow.
EmceeSquared
1 / 5 (1) May 16, 2017
No, renewable energy is growing only because of government regulation - too little, too late, but better than none. The "free market" (or rather, the reality of heavily subsidized and rigged petrofuels markets) totally failed, by design, to develop sustainable energy sources to replace petrofuels.

jeffensley:
I agree

EmceeSquared
3 / 5 (4) May 16, 2017
They won't be so chuffed when climate change collapses civilization and they have to subsist on homegrown cabbages instead of the global food market. Reduction to Viking levels will suck for them, if they even survive the probable nuke wars the rest of the world wages on its way down.

Shootist:
Warmer

EmceeSquared
3 / 5 (4) May 16, 2017
You know who should learn to shut up? Stupid trolls like you who fling glib nonsense at nations being destroyed by rising seas that you're defending with your glib nonsense.

JongDan:
You know

EmceeSquared
3.7 / 5 (6) May 16, 2017
"1 + 1 = 2" is also "just a model". Spreadsheets are just models. Databases are just models.

Without models we're limited to only the most facile assertions. You're evidently satisfied with that, but you fail to understand the tools with which science is done. You're not qualified to criticize what you can't understand.

BackBurner:
Oh. Sorry

dudester
5 / 5 (1) May 17, 2017
My family farms on the high plains of western Kansas. Anyone who thinks that 90 degree weather in March and April and day after day of 100 plus degrees in July and August with temperatures failing to go below 90 at night doesn't affect the wheat and corn harvest negatively needs their heads examined. The only thing keeping us in business is that there's still water in the Ogallala aquifer that we can pour on it, for now. Know nothings about agriculture need to keep their mouths shut and chew while they still can.
dudester
5 / 5 (1) May 17, 2017
Also:

Sizzling summer temperatures can bring your previously productive tomato plants to a screeching halt. When days hit 85°F to 90°F and nights hover above 75°F, tomato flowers often fail to pollinate, then drop — which in turn puts new fruit production on hold. The longer the heat lasts, the longer those tomato flowers will continue to hit the pause button. In short, hot weather can delay your tomato crop.
https://bonniepla...weather/

I haven't been able to grow tomatoes consistently for years, and it's the temperature it doesn't drop below at night you have to worry about when growing food as much as you do what it gets up to in heat of the day. It used to always cool down here enough at night for tomatoes, not anymore.

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