Last week’s The Economist has a nice piece in its Graphic Detail section on how climate change is affecting yields of some crops so much that farmers in many parts of the world will be increasingly tempted — if not compelled — to switch to different crops.
Even if more climate-resilient varieties of the crops farmers are currently growing come on-line, along with better agronomic practices, it may in some cases just be easier and more profitable to grow something else, says the article.
Like breadfruit, it adds, cheekily. Before concluding, rather more constructively, that, given the uncertainties involved, farmers should “learn about a wide variety of crops.”
I’d have liked to share a chart or two here, but the licensing paywall is steep, so I’ll just point to the four studies that the article references. Unlike The Economist, though, I’ll actually give the full titles, and link to the papers — Brainfood-style.
- Climate analogues suggest limited potential for intensification of production on current croplands under climate change. Major cereals are going to take a significant hit over much of their area of cultivation by 2050.
- Climate impacts on global agriculture emerge earlier in new generation of climate and crop models. Newer crop and climate models are generally more pessimistic that older ones.
- Increased food production and reduced water use through optimized crop distribution. Shifting crops around in a clever way would feed an extra 850 million people while saving water.
- Matches and mismatches between the global distribution of major food crops and climate suitability. The match between where 12 crops actually grow and where they grow best is not optimal, but stronger in richer parts of the world.
LATER: Actually, let me add another one to the list, not in the piece in The Economist but also relevant, and complemented by a useful Q&A with one of the authors.
- Relocating croplands could drastically reduce the environmental impacts of global food production. Moving crops to where they do best decreases their carbon, biodiversity, and irrigation water footprint.