Increase in Global Heat Leads to Decrease in Agricultural Output

By: Saira Malhotra

Last week, Reuters reported how the United States, the world's largest food exporter, showed growing concerns regarding its agricultural output. At an agronomist meeting last week in San Antonio, scientists engaged in a hot topic: heat. Experts have always considered global warming with regards to its impact on melting glaciers and over flowing water tables, but what seems to be having a more direct and immediate impact on agricultural production is the rise in climate.

With the early start to sun rise accompanied by significantly hot evenings, the days are getting longer and hotter, particularly in the Southern parts of the country like Florida. Such spikes in temperature are making it difficult for crops to thrive and in some cases they have ceased to even grow.  According to Ken Boote, crop scientist of the University of Florida, "we don't grow tomatoes in the deep South in the summer. Pollination fails." Snap peas were no strangers to the soil of Florida, but now even they have fallen in to the bucket of the agronomic past.

These rise in temperatures have brought about a change in approach. Gerald Nelson is an economist for the International Food Policy Research Institute funded by Bill and Melinda Gates. His role is to identify crops that would prosper in these conditions. Scientists are identifying that while steps are being taken to mitigate the agricultural challenges from the climate, they are focused more on insufficient rains rather than heat. Even insurance claims demonstrate that crop failure occurs due to lack of water, and as a result, the main issue gets overlooked again. "The magnitude of recent temperature trends is larger than those for precipitation in most situations," highlighted a study performed by David Lobell, a Stanford University agricultural scientist. Lobells findings also demonstrate heat and not rainfall impacted the output of corn, wheat, soybean, and rice over the last three decades.

According to Reuters, there is higher seed supply to cope with the hunger needs around the country, but the challenge is to plant them in an environment which sets them up for success.

Photo: Cristian V.

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