Crop Failures to Increase on Climate Change, Researchers Say

Crop failures such as this year in Russia are likely to become more common as climate change causes more extreme weather with heat and drought stress, according to a study led by the U.K.’s University of Leeds.

A simulation of climate change’s effect on spring wheat in northeast China showed that in the worst case, more than 35 percent of crops may fail through 2099, compared with a baseline rate of about 13 percent, the study showed.

“More extreme weather events are expected to occur in the coming years due to climate change, and we have shown that these events are likely to lead to more crop failures,” Andy Challinor of the university’s School of Earth and Environment, the study’s lead author, said in a statement.

Adaptation to climate change may be possible with new crops that better tolerate heat and water stress, as well as modernization of farming and improvement of social and economic conditions, the study shows.

“The development of stress-tolerant crop does not naturally lead to its availability to the farmers who need it,” the authors said in the study. “Previous studies in northeast China have shown that the vulnerability of wheat yields to drought is correlated with data representing access to capital and land.”

Using median values in their climate-change simulation, the researchers found the percentage of crops failing, defined as yields lower than one standard deviation below the average over the 1990 to 2099 period, would range from about 20 percent to 30 percent.

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