What Extreme Heat Means for Crop Productivity

A recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows that the climate crisis has adversely affected or resulted in the loss of ecosystems and global warming will likely reach or exceed 1.5°C in the near-term. Agricultural experts say that these changes are already threatening crop productivity around the world.

Extreme heat has a particularly significant impact on crops, explains Dr. David Lobell, a Professor in the Department of Earth System Science at Stanford University and the Gloria and Richard Kushel Director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment.

Lobell, who is the recipient of the 2022 National Academy of Sciences prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences, tells Food Tank that the effects of climate change are most apparent to the public during major droughts or heatwaves. But he says, it’s the long-term trends that caught his attention. “In agriculture…something that’s a drag on productivity, something that is reducing [productivity] by a few percent, can really accumulate over time.”

This decline may cause food prices to rise and farmers to increase their land use. “[It] just has this cumulative effect of basically stymieing the progress that we have been making toward reducing food insecurity…and reducing the expansion of land use,” Lobell tells Food Tank. In response, he believes that climate change mitigation has “become more essential.”

Crop monitoring technology may play an important role in the solution. Not only can monitoring help to assess productivity over time, helping growers understand the farming systems that work best in specific regions. It can also help to bring operation costs down for farmers.

Listen to the full conversation with David Lobell on “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg” to hear more about the responsible use of technology in climate change mitigation, the importance of making scientific research more visible, and the growing respect for interdisciplinary research and collaboration.

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Photo courtesy of Dylan de Jonge, Unsplash

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