Ravenous climate

Global warming impacts rice yields

Published: Sunday 15 August 2004

Increase in global temperature could cause significant reductions in the yields of rice. For the first time, scientists have published 'concrete' evidence of increasing night-time temperature (associated with global warming) causing rice yields to fall. During their study, researchers from the worldwide renowned International Rice Research Institute (irri) of the Philippines analysed local climate data of 1979 to 2003 and information about rice yields of the last 12 years. They found that rice yields had decreased by more than 10 per cent, with the night-time temperatures in the dry season rising by 1.1C.

The scientists do not know how the temperature reduces the yields. They suspect that rice plants need to spend more energy to keep growing in the warmer nights.

If this is true, then it would be difficult to overcome the trend. But if developmental processes of plants are being adversely affected, genetic improvements and crop management may help make the impacts less severe.

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