News ID: 109295
Published: 0235 GMT January 13, 2015

Global warming reduces wheat production

Global warming reduces  wheat production

Wheat plays an important role in feeding the world, but climate change threatens its future harvest.

Without adaptation, global aggregate wheat production is projected to decline on average by 6 percent for each additional degree Celsius temperature increase.

Worldwide, this would correspond to 42 million tons yield reduction for one degree Celsius global warming.

This result has been generated by an international research consortium to which Natural Resources Institute Finland (previously known as MTT Agrifood Research Finland) substantially contributed.

The results were published online in the high impact journal Nature Climate Change.

The researchers found that in response to global temperature increases, grain yield declines are predicted for most regions in the world. Considering present global production of 701 million tons of wheat in 2012, this means a possible reduction of 42 million tons per one degree Celsius of temperature increase.

"To put this in perspective, the amount is equal to a quarter of global wheat trade, which reached 147 million tons in 2013. In addition, wheat yield declines due to climate change are likely to be larger than previously thought and should be expected earlier, starting even with small increases in temperature," says Prof. Dr. Reimund Rötter from Natural Resources Institute Finland.

"Therefore, it is essential to understand how different climate factors interact and impact food production when reaching decisions on how to adapt to the effects of climate change."

In the study, the researchers systematically tested 30 different wheat crop models against field experiments in which growing season mean temperatures ranged from 15 °C to 26 °C. The temperature impact on yield decline varied widely across field test conditions.

In addition, year-to-year variability increased at some locations because of greater yield reductions in warmer years and lesser reductions in cooler years.

"Increased yield variability is critical economically as it could weaken regional and global stability in wheat grain supply and food security, amplifying market and price fluctuations, as experienced during recent years," says Professor Rotter.

In its recent Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that global mean temperature may rise up to 5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.

"Timely and adequate adaptation, such as cultivating more heat-tolerant wheat cultivars, could substantially reduce climate change induced risks," Rotter says.

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