How Climate Variability Affects Crop Yields

 
How Climate Variability Affects Crop Yields

So many factors affect your crop’s final yields. A new report from researchers at the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment (IonE) has found that climate variability may be one of the biggest disruptors in crop yields.

Historically, the IonE says climate variability is responsible for 32% to 39% of year-to-year yield variability in corn, rice, wheat and soybeans. That’s the equivalent of 36 million metric tons of food each year.

Researchers analyzed production statistics from around the world between 1979 and 2008 and matched it with corresponding precipitation and temperature data. The team used this data to calculate year-to-year fluctuations and estimate how much was due to climate variability.

IonE’s finding  varied among regions. Climate variability was highly influential on crop yields in high-production regions but was less of a factor in low-yielding regions.

“This means that really productive areas contribute to food security by having a bumper crop when the weather is favorable but can be hit really hard when the weather is bad and contribute disproportionately to global food insecurity,” says Deepak Ray, senior scientist with IonE. “At the other end of the spectrum, low-yielding regions seem to be more resilient to bad-weather years but don’t see big gains when the weather is ideal.”

That means parts of Asia and Africa show little correlation between climate variability and yield variability, Ray says. On the other hand, climate variability can affect yield variability by as much as 60% in regions that include the U.S. Midwest, the North China Plains, western Europe and Japan.

Next, the team will look at historical records to see if yield variability attributed to climate has changed over time.

“Yield variability can be a big problem from both economic and food supply standpoints,” Ray says. “The results of this study and our follow-up work can be used to improve food system availability around the world by identifying hot spots of food insecurity today, as well as those likely to be exacerbated by climate change in the future.

For more information, visit environment.umn.edu. And join this controversial conversation on climate change on the AgWeb discussion boards.

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