Global warming will hamper US wheat production, study shows

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Impacts of global warming on each facet of human life and life in general on planet Earth has been one of the main focus area of climate scientists and the overall picture created by increasing temperatures isn’t a pleasant one so far. In a new research that echoes this particular sentiment researchers have shown that global warming will have a direct impact on food production.

According to the research carried out by Jesse Tack, Andrew Barkley and Lawton Lanier Nalley of Mississippi State University, Kansas State University and the University of Arkansas respectively, increase in global temperatures will have an adverse effect on US wheat production – so much so that even an increase of 2 degrees Celsius will reduce wheat production by 15 per cent and a 2 degrees Celsius will reduce the yields by 40 percent.

A unique data set that combines Kansas wheat variety field trial outcomes for 1985–2013 with location-specific weather data is used to analyze the effect of weather on wheat yield using regression analysis, the researcher trio notes in their paper.

Our results indicate that the effect of temperature exposure varies across the September?May growing season. The largest drivers of yield loss are freezing temperatures in the Fall and extreme heat events in the Spring, the researchers add.

During their research in Kansas, which is home to one of the largest producers of wheat annually, they gathered a lot of data that indicated that modern strains are vulnerable to both extremely high and low temperatures. Ruling out the low temperature effects as they are not the focus of the research, scientists reveal that high temperatures are set to cause significant yield reductions. During their research, they also found a sort of cutoff point — 34 degrees Celsius beyond which wheat yield will start reducing substantially.

Researchers call upon international wheat breeders to intensify research efforts to increase resistance to heat stress during focused developmental stages. “These efforts could result in net positive warming effects since reduced exposure to freeze was found to be a yield-enhancing benefit of warming”, the researchers say.

“Our results indicate that advancements in heat resistance could come at the expense of higher average yields, and that there is currently limited scope for producer adaptation through alternative variety selection.”