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Adjusting to Climate Change

Crop Yields Photo Graphic

Farmers are about as creative as they come. And they are relying on that creativity to adapt to changing climate problems.  Of course, weather pattern changes have negatively impacted production with certain crops in certain places (the most severe and immediate would include droughts, severe flooding, derechos and hurricanes). But a collaborative study by four researchers at two U.S. universities examining crop yields over four decades found that producers are largely overcoming weather variations. At least for now.

“World and Regional Trend Crop Yields in an Era of Climate Change” examined global data from several sources and focused on corn, rice, soybeans and wheat yields.

  • Dr. Carl Zulauf, professor in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics at The Ohio State University.

  • Dr. Gary Schnitkey, professor in the Department of Agricultural Strategy at the University of Illinois.

  • Dr. Nick Paulson, professor in the Department of Agricultural & Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois.

  • Dr. Joana Colussi, instructor and postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois.  

The four researchers offered this perspective:

“While research has found negative yield impacts from climate change on more micro-scales, the overall result of this analysis finds that world and regional trend yields increased at a constant or increasing annual rate from 1981 to 2022. This finding suggests that aggregate world crop production has thus far been able to adapt to climate change impacts."

The 41-year research period covers a transitional period that included numerous technological advances, improvements in genetic modification, conservation practices, pest management developments, plant breeding, higher-quality fertilizer and precision planting.

RELATED: CBS News examined how producers have moved to other geographic areas in response to warming temperatures. Watch that story here. 

The research project divided the world into 14 regions and there were different mini-trends over the four decades. And that could be where changing weather patterns had the most impact.

North America provided consistently higher yields in corn, rice, soybeans and wheat. The Caribbean, however, experienced declining yields in corn. Central America, Oceania, South Asia and Southeast Asia all suffered declines in beans. North Africa saw declines in rice yields. And wheat yields in the Middle East went down over the period.

World Regional Yield Trends

The report also pointed out that its analysis doesn’t offer a closer look at countries:

“This analysis does not address the impact of climate change on smaller geographical areas, such as individual countries. However, for smaller areas, the effect of climate change at regional and world levels matters if trade in agricultural products is free. Negative impacts of climate change on production in one area can be mitigated by increased imports from the same or nearby regions. The role of free trade in managing the impacts of climate change on agricultural production has generally received little attention in national and international discussions. It is important to include it.”

RELATED: Read the full “World and Regional Trend Crop Yields in an Era of Climate Change” report here. 


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