Nav: Home

Climate change should help Midwest corn production through 2050

May 16, 2018

Climate change and global warming put some forms of life at risk, but researchers found one instance that might not feel the heat - corn.

Contrary to previous analyses, research published by Michigan State University shows that projected changes in temperature and humidity will not lead to greater water use in corn. This means that while changes in temperatures and humidity trend as they have in the past 50 years, crop yields can not only survive - but thrive.

"There is a lot of optimism looking at the future for farmers, especially in the Midwest," said Bruno Basso, lead author of the study and University Distinguished professor.

Basso and his colleague Joe Ritchie, co-author on the study, calculated how much energy crops receive from the sun and how it is converted to evaporative loss from the crop, known as evapotranspiration.

"Think of the energy balance like a bank account. There are additions and subtractions," Basso said. "The energy coming from the sun is a known, measured quantity that adds to the bank account. The primary subtraction is liquid water from the crop, and soil using the solar energy to convert the water to vapor."

The researchers used the energy balance to calculate the evaporative water loss for 2017, which set a world record yield of 542 bushels per acre. They found that the water loss was the same as it was for lower yielding crops because the energy balance was about the same.

The trend for the past 50 years of a slightly more humid environment decreases the energy for the crops' water use.

"Our analysis, and that of other climate researchers, shows that the amount of water vapor in the air is gradually increasing in the summers because the daily low temperatures are getting gradually warmer, but the daily high temperatures are cooling - or staying the same - in many areas of the Midwest," Basso said. "This causes more humidity and slightly decreases how much energy is used for evaporation."

Basso also tested a water balance calculation on the crop models that, similar to the energy balance, has additions from rainfall and irrigation and subtractions from evaporation from the crop.

"A water balance is just like the bank account of an energy for crops," Basso said. "There must be a balance to make crops 'happy' so that all the energy reaching the crop surface is evaporated."

In the United States, as a result of improved hybrids and agronomic practices, corn production has steadily increased by an average of two bushels per acre every year for the past 40 years.

Basso explained that data from the National Corn Growers Association competition for high yields shows the potential for continued higher yields in the future. His findings support that climate change won't hinder its production if the trend of the past 50 years continues into the next 50 years.

"The energy for evaporation is changing little, so if the number of days the crop grows and uses water is the same now and, in the future, the evaporation loss will be the same and slightly less," Basso said. "In fact, the warmer temperatures allow the use of longer season hybrids that will make for even greater yield possibilities."
-end-


Michigan State University

Related Climate Change Articles:

The black forest and climate change
Silver and Douglas firs could replace Norway spruce in the long run due to their greater resistance to droughts.
For some US counties, climate change will be particularly costly
A highly granular assessment of the impacts of climate change on the US economy suggests that each 1°Celsius increase in temperature will cost 1.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product, on average.
Climate change label leads to climate science acceptance
A new Cornell University study finds that labels matter when it comes to acceptance of climate science.
Was that climate change?
A new four-step 'framework' aims to test the contribution of climate change to record-setting extreme weather events.
It's more than just climate change
Accurately modeling climate change and interactive human factors -- including inequality, consumption, and population -- is essential for the effective science-based policies and measures needed to benefit and sustain current and future generations.
Climate change scientists should think more about sex
Climate change can have a different impact on male and female fish, shellfish and other marine animals, with widespread implications for the future of marine life and the production of seafood.
Climate change prompts Alaska fish to change breeding behavior
A new University of Washington study finds that one of Alaska's most abundant freshwater fish species is altering its breeding patterns in response to climate change, which could impact the ecology of northern lakes that already acutely feel the effects of a changing climate.
Uncertainties related to climate engineering limit its use in curbing climate change
Climate engineering refers to the systematic, large-scale modification of the environment using various climate intervention techniques.
Public holds polarized views about climate change and trust in climate scientists
There are gaping divisions in Americans' views across every dimension of the climate debate, including causes and cures for climate change and trust in climate scientists and their research, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
The psychology behind climate change denial
In a new thesis in psychology, Kirsti Jylhä at Uppsala University has studied the psychology behind climate change denial.

Related Climate Change Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Setbacks
Failure can feel lonely and final. But can we learn from failure, even reframe it, to feel more like a temporary setback? This hour, TED speakers on changing a crushing defeat into a stepping stone. Guests include entrepreneur Leticia Gasca, psychology professor Alison Ledgerwood, astronomer Phil Plait, former professional athlete Charly Haversat, and UPS training manager Jon Bowers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".