Climate Change

Wheat could expand to higher latitudes if warming trends continue: Study

Global maize yield could decline 24% while wheat would increase 17% by 2030 if the world warms like it is doing now, says study

By Susan Chacko
Published: Tuesday 02 November 2021

The cultivation of wheat, among the three most consumed crops in the world, could expand to higher latitudes by 2030, increasing its global yield, if global warming trends continue, a recent study has said.

Higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will have a positive effect on the growth of wheat, according to the study published in Nature Food.

However, the nutritional value of such wheat would be reduced. Also, the increase in global wheat yield could level off by 2050.

Wheat yield would increase 17 per cent by 2030. On the other hand, global maize yield would decline 24 per cent. It would be more difficult to grow maize in the tropics.

The study was led by a team of researchers from International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. They used advanced climate and agricultural models to come to this conclusion.

Maize or corn is grown all over the world and large quantities are produced in countries near the equator.

North and central America, west Africa, central Asia, Brazil and China will potentially see their maize yields decline in the coming years and beyond as average temperatures rise across these breadbasket regions, putting more stress on the plants, a press release by IIASA on the study said.

Jonas Jägermeyr, a crop modeler and climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies  and The Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York City and the lead author of the study said:

Human-made greenhouse gas emissions bring higher temperatures, shifts in rainfall patterns and more carbon dioxide in the air. This affects crop growth and we find that the emergence of the climate change signal — the time when extraordinary years become the norm ­­— will occur within the next decade or soon after in many key breadbasket regions globally.

Farmers need to adapt much faster by changing the planting dates and using different crop varieties to avoid severe losses, according to the study.

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