Climate change putting stress on food supply

Collaborator: Rachael Schuit
Published: 09/22/2021, 6:40 PM
Edited: 09/27/2021, 2:33 AM

Photo Credit: Climate Central

(NATIONAL) As temperatures, unusual weather patterns, and drought frequency increase, so does talk about them and how they are affecting the food supply. 

Climate scientists say changes in climate are impacting agriculture both globally and in the United States. 

According to research from Climate Central, a non-profit group of scientists, July is getting hotter here in the U.S. 

That trend of warmer temperatures is also something Michigan and the Great Lakes region are experiencing year-round, says Jeff Andresen, the Climatologist for the state of Michigan and a professor at Michigan State University.

Andresen said this has led to a longer frost-free growing season for farmers in Michigan. 

"We are seeing a gradual advance or earlier for the last freezing temperatures of the spring time and at the same time in the fall, we're seeing the first freezing temperatures of the fall season become a little bit later with time," Andresen told VNN. 

An uptick in unusual rain events, like Michigan and the Great Lakes region saw in 2019, is a double-edged sword. 

"For many of our annual crops and for our perennial crops we are less likely to run out of water, and water if you look up worldwide, that's the number one issue in terms of describing those jumps up and down in productivity year after year," Andresen said. 

He said 2019 was the wettest year Michigan had in more than 100 years and that it caused problems for agriculture in the state. 

"We had a record amount of crop that never went in the ground and at the same season, amazingly you talk about irony, that fall we also had one of the wettest falls on record," Anderson said. "And what was there and what had been planted we had really serious difficulty getting it out in harvesting because it was too wet." 

Drought conditions have since increased in Michigan, with severe drought conditions impacting the state May through July of this year. 

The scientists at Climate Central and Andresen said temperatures are expected to keep rising, and there are concerns about less precipitation overall, especially beyond 2050. 

Andresen said rising temperatures and lower amounts of precipitation will lead to an increased demand for the water that is available because water evaporates more quickly into the environment when the temperatures are higher. 

"It's used more quickly and again that's how the plant cools itself," Andresen said. "That's the major purpose of all of this water uptake by the plant is to keep its leaves and operating temperatures within some range of operation and if the water goes, so goes the cooling and the plant ultimately shuts down or becomes less productive and we don't get as much of yield."

Two crops that could be greatly impacted by heat and drought are corn and soybean. 

Climate Central said projections show that after 2050, corn yields in the U.S. could be 7 percent lower than their current average and soybean yields could be 9 percent lower.

When it comes to slowing down the impacts of climate change on areas like agriculture, Andresen said the only option is to look at the root of the problem. 

"The root of the problem if we're gonna have any chance at slowing it down or maybe someday in the future to reverse it, we've got to take some of these compounds, some of these greenhouse gasses, certainly reduce what we're emitting and take some of those that are already in the atmosphere out," Andresen said.

Learn more about what scientists have recently said about climate change here. 


This story has no comments yet