Climate change may reduce corn, soy, cotton yields 80% by 2100

If action is not taken to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, scientists predict that climate change may cause yields of corn, soybeans, and cotton– three of America’s biggest cash crops– to decrease by as much as 80% by 2100. A new study released by researchers at Columbia University and North Carolina State University in the online Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences details these potential impacts.

Dr. Michael Roberts, one of the lead authors of the study, said, “While crop yields depend on a variety of factors, extreme heat is the best predictor of yields.”

Temperatures higher than 85 degrees Fahrenheit for corn, 86 degrees for soy, and 89 degrees for cotton cause damage to crops, reducing yields.   By the end of this century, temperatures are predicted to rise by as much as 11 degrees Fahrenheit due to global warming, according to a recent US Global Change Research Program report (PDF format).

Risks of Inaction

Yield losses of up to 80% for corn, cotton and soy will clearly have devastating effects on American farmers. Additionally, these yield losses will be disastrous for US and global food security.  Though much of the focus has been on the costs and impacts of federal policy, this study shows that the cost of doing nothing and putting farmers and the world food supply at grave risk is the most critical calculation.

According to the study, “The United States produces 41% of the world’s corn and 38% of the world’s soybeans. These crops comprise two of the four largest sources of caloric energy produced and are thus critical for world food supply.”

For More Information

For more information on the Columbia University and North Carolina State University study, go here.

For more information on the effects of climate change on agriculture, go here.