Climate Change

Climate change eats into output of top 10 food crops

Production decreased unequally for barley, cassava, maize, oil palm, rapeseed, rice, sorghum, soybean, sugarcane and wheat

 
By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Monday 03 June 2019
Climate change threatening global food production. Photos: Getty Images

Climate change has disproportionately affected the production of the world's top 10 crops majorly in vulnerable countries in Asia and the Americas, a study claimed.

The output of barley, cassava, maize, oil palm, rapeseed, rice, sorghum, soybean, sugarcane and wheat have already started to dip in half of all food-insecure countries and even some affluent ones in western Europe, according to a release on the University of Minnesota website. These 10 crops supply 83 per cent of all calories produced on cropland.

Climate change has led to a decrease of 13.4 per cent in output for oil palm to an increase of 3.5 per cent for soybean. Climate change has also resulted in an average loss of approximately one per cent of consumable food calories of these top 10 crops, claimed the study published in PLOS ONE journal.

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

Importantly, “the research documents how change is already happening, not just in some future time”, Ray added.

Using weather and reported crop data, the team evaluated the potential impact of observed climate change. They found that countries such as Europe, Southern Africa, and Australia experience no such decrease compared to poor and developing countries of Latin America, Asia, Northern and Central America, where climate change blends with poverty to worsen the impacts.

In contrast, the change has increased the yields of certain crops in some areas of the upper Midwest United States, the study showed.

The study maps the vulnerable geographical areas and crops. It can help the affected countries to work towards achieving the United Nations mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDG-2) of ending hunger and limiting the effects of climate change. The report also has implications for major food companies, commodity traders and the countries in which they operate, as well as for citizens worldwide.

“This is a very complex system, so a careful statistical and data science modeling component is crucial to understand the dependencies and cascading effects of small or large changes,” says co-author Snigdhansu Chatterjee of the University of Minnesota’s School of Statistics.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 2016 report, almost 800 million people in the world today are chronically hungry. The report states that climate change is increasingly affecting nearly 80 per cent of the world’s poor who depend on agriculture for their livelihood. 

Declining crop yields may already be a fact and that decreases of 10–25 per cent or more may be widespread by 2050, warned the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

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