Greening Earth & Booming Crops
NASA, IPCC, and the Surprising Story of Climate Change’s Impact on Global Agriculture
IPCC, NASA, agriculture, and climate change…
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated there are vulnerabilities in agricultural production to the changing climate. They claim that a rise in temperatures can significantly reduce crop yields, particularly for temperature-sensitive crops like wheat and rice, which may suffer from impaired development and reduced grain filling duration due to heat stress.
The IPCC further states that changes in rainfall patterns will pose another challenge. As precipitation becomes less predictable, water availability for irrigation can become inconsistent. With rising temperatures, areas suitable for specific crops might migrate poleward or to higher elevations.
Although they do admit that certain regions might see potential benefits from moderate warming and increased carbon dioxide concentrations, the IPCC suggests that the overall negative impacts will overshadow these benefits, especially as global temperatures continue to rise.
NASA also jumps in to claim…
Climate change may affect the production of maize (corn) and wheat as early as 2030 under a high greenhouse gas emissions scenario, according to a new NASA study published in the journal, Nature Food. Maize crop yields are projected to decline 24%, while wheat could potentially see growth of about 17%.
To evaluate claims that elevated temperatures reduce crop yields, let’s look at how yields have changed since the mid-1990s when the global average temperature has risen faster than ever before as claimed by NASA.
But first a few words about CO2 fertilization.
CO2 fertilization and crop yield…
CO2 fertilization refers to the enhanced growth of plants due to increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations. As the primary raw material for photosynthesis, higher CO2 levels can lead to more efficient plant growth. In controlled settings like greenhouses, CO2 levels are often raised to around 800-1200 ppm to promote plant growth, suggesting this range is closer to an optimum for many plants.
NASA freely admits that CO2 fertilization is greening Earth.
Global crop yields since the mid-1990s…
Over the past three decades, staple crops like corn (maize), wheat, and rice have seen significant advances in yield, driven largely by a melding of genetic improvements, modern agricultural practices, and technological innovations.
Genetic strides have been made through traditional breeding techniques that have ushered in crop varieties with enhanced yield potential, resilience to diseases, and better drought tolerance. Biotechnology has further augmented this progress, with genetically modified crops being able to ward off pests or thrive amidst specific herbicides, ensuring lesser competition from weeds. Corn, in particular, has benefited immensely from hybrid seeds, which often result in far superior yields compared to conventional varieties.
On the agricultural front, the embrace of precision agriculture has been transformative. This meticulous approach, backed by technology, ensures that crops receive precisely what they need, from water to nutrients, optimizing health and production. This precision extends to irrigation too, with modern systems like drip irrigation ensuring efficient water use. Conservation techniques, like no-till farming, have also gained traction, boosting soil health and water retention, thereby benefiting yields, especially in regions prone to drought. Integrated pest management strategies, which focus on monitoring and targeted interventions, have further minimized crop losses due to pests and diseases.
Technological innovations, spanning from state-of-the-art farm machinery to digital tools like satellite imaging and AI-driven algorithms, have revolutionized crop management. These technologies have not only streamlined the planting and harvesting processes but have also bolstered decision-making, leading to consistently better yields. Moreover, the emphasis on soil health and more precise nutrient management, including the judicious use of synthetic fertilizers, has proven pivotal. As the foundation of all crop growth, enriched and well-maintained soil directly translates to enhanced yields.
Let’s take a look at how some of the global yields have changed since the mid-1990s, starting with rice.