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Bond Yields Today – Climate Change leads to lower crop yields

LINCOLN, Neb. (KSNB) – Climate change is already affecting the weather patterns across the globe: extreme wildfires, record-breaking hurricane seasons, catastrophic flooding. While here in Nebraska have not experienced any of these examples, it is affecting our state as well.

UNL Chancellor Green (left) and researcher Harkamal Walia (right) discuss the impacts of climate change on Nebraska’s agriculture.(EditBay HS3 | UNL)

At UNL, Chancellor Ronnie Green is conducting his Distinguished Lecture Series, and on Wednesday, Associate Professor and Heuermann Agronomy & Horticulture Chair Harkamal Walia presented “Changing Climate, Warmer Nights and Crop Yields.” He addressed how the warming climate is impacting how crops grow and develop, and how the specific nature of the warming directly impacts yield come harvest season.

During the growing season, the mean low temps in Grand Island have increased over 1.2°F in the...
During the growing season, the mean low temps in Grand Island have increased over 1.2°F in the last 50 years.(Kit Cloninger)

While we are not seeing daytime highs increasing much, overnight lows are increasing at a rather steady rate. Looking at Grand Island data, morning low temperatures have warmed approximately 1.2°F between May 1 and August 31 since 1970. This is only one location, but the trend is reflected both across the state, and across the Midwest. This nighttime warming trend is what a UNL researcher says leads to stress in crops, inhibiting growth.

Walia said in a conversation with Chancellor Green after his presentation, “There is some evidence from historic data where they’ve shown that the… the counties that had, are hotter, were showing in general a less degree of yield increase from growing similar maize varieties.” His research is primarily in rice crops, but the impact is similar to corn and maize. When the plant is growing, it takes in carbon dioxide and expels oxygen, effectively breathing an opposite exchange of what animals do. When it is hot, this respiration increases, but can tire out the plant and its growth becomes less efficient.

When nighttime temperatures do not cool down to lows the crop is used to, its respiration will remain elevated and increases the stress on the plant and cells within. That stress limits the growth of starch molecules and decreases the effectiveness of enzymes at the cellular level. This is the link between historical data of lower crop yields in warmer years to climate change leading to crop losses. In the long term, later this century, as global temperatures rise and local extremes become warmer and more common, crop losses could easily be in the billions, and the cost would accumulate.

Warmer nighttime temperatures lead to stress on crops, which will produce starch molecules less...
Warmer nighttime temperatures lead to stress on crops, which will produce starch molecules less efficiently. This can lead to browning of grains and crop yield losses.(EditBay HS3 | UNL)

At UNL, a team of researches works to modify the genetic makeup of crops to be more resilient to different factors. Research like that of Walia can help shed light on what can be done to preserve our crops in a future, warmer climate. However, this is not a fix for the crisis as a whole of climate change. Increasing levels of carbon dioxide is the driver of global warming. Human activity and the burning of fossil fuels is the primary source for the increase of carbon dioxide in the last two centuries. Unless action is taken to reduce carbon emissions, our planet will continue to warm, leading to a rise in sea level, more extreme heat waves and floods, and dramatic impacts on agriculture.

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Bond Yields Today – Climate Change leads to lower crop yields

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James Albert

James Albert

James Albert is a personal-finance analist for FintechZoom and is based in New York. Contact: [email protected]

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