Study Links Climate Change to Changes in Crop Yields

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, from |

A new study says climate change has reduced the world's wheat and maize production. The study says rice and soybean yields have also decreased in some places — but increased in others. In the words of the researchers: "For soybeans and rice, winners and losers largely balanced out."The researchers studied climate trends and global crop production from between nineteen eighty and two thousand eight. They found that climate changes "are already exerting a considerable drag on yield growth" and may have affected food prices. The study used computer models linking crop yields to weather. Yield is the amount produced for each hectare or acre. The researchers compared the results to what the yields might have been without climate changes. They found that corn production decreased by almost four percent and wheat production decreased by five and a half percent.Warming temperatures were reported in almost all of Europe, much of Asia and some of South America and Africa. During the study period most countries had greater temperature changes from year to year than they have had historically. But the study says the United States was an important exception — at least so far. Corn and wheat yields in most of North America remained about the same. Russia's wheat yields decreased the most. The largest loss in corn yields were in China and Brazil. The report is in the journal Science.One of the researchers was economist Wolfram Schlenker at Columbia University in New York and the National Bureau of Economic Research. He says the report can serve as a planning tool for policy makers. He says: "If you are worried about rising food prices, it might be good to funnel some research into breeding for heat tolerance and maybe even drought tolerance." Jeffrey Stark is with a public policy organization called the Foundation for Environmental Security and Stability. He recently described the effects of climate change on pastoralists in Uganda who travel with their cattle. Many say they have to travel farther in search of pasture and water because of unpredictable changes in seasonal weather patterns. And that search can bring them into conflict with farmers facing problems of their own. For VOA Special English, I'm Carolyn Presutti. You can download MP3s of Special English programs and find English teaching activities at
(Adapted from a radio program broadcast 17May2011)

Leave a Comment

Recent Comments