Warming world could send corn price popping

The USA's number one crop - corn - could see its prime growing region shift to the Canadian border or its price volatility increase sharply within 30 years, with Noah Diffenbaugh, Tom Hertel and their colleagues pointing to climate change as the cause. Credit: Doug Wilson, Agricultural Research Service, USDA

The USA's number one crop - corn - could see its prime growing region shift to the Canadian border or its price volatility increase sharply within 30 years, with Noah Diffenbaugh, Tom Hertel and their colleagues pointing to climate change as the cause. Credit: Doug Wilson, Agricultural Research Service, USDA

Climate change is set to cause big swings in the price of corn grown in the US from year to year, researchers have said this week. That’s largely because temperatures above 29°C during certain points in the corn growing season reduce the amount produced, said economist Tom Hertel from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. But it will also be affected by how corn growers react and what the government does, he and his co-workers have found. “Corn prices have been fairly volatile in the last couple of decades,” Tom told Simple Climate. “That is nothing compared to what we would see under future climate, assuming that nothing else changed.”

In 2009, scientists showed that crops like corn were very sensitive to extreme heat, and that in a warmer world today’s plants would suffer. However, those studies didn’t show how smoothly or otherwise heat would change prices and output, or yield, of crops. Governments and farmers might like to know this to help their planning, but predicting warming’s impact on corn requires a very detailed picture of what future temperature might be like. “It’s not whether the temperature on average in a month or year was high, it’s whether you have a few hot days and whether those come at a time when they do significant damage,” Tom said. “If you talk to farmers they’ll certainly tell you, those really hot days coming at critical times can be very damaging.” Read the rest of this entry »

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