"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Declining Crop Yields’

U.S. Food System Imperiled: New Research Quantifies The Devastating Impacts Of Extreme Weather On Essential Crops

In Uncategorized on January 9, 2016 at 7:11 pm

Oldspeak: “Conventional thinking among many scientists is that developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia—where people are typically hit harder by food price spikes and generally more reliant on agriculture as a primary source of income—are the most vulnerable to food-related climate impacts… researchers found that, as a rule of thumb, droughts and heat waves typically cut a country’s cereal production by 10 percent… But unexpectedly, the researchers also found that the impacts were 8 to 11 percent more severe in developed countries than in developing ones. In developed countries, the emphasis is often on maximizing profit with big monoculture farms that work great in good climates but get trashed when the weather turns sour. Farmers in developing countries, by contrast, may prioritize minimizing their risk, taking a smaller yield in exchange for better resilience.” –Tim McDonnell

Greed is the dominant value today in the world. And as long as that persists, well, we are done.” –Manfried Max-Neef

“How bout that. Yet another unintended consequence of greed-fueled capitalist ecological violence. Giant profit driven monocultures don’t fare well in less than ideal environmental conditions. Unfortunately for us, ideal environmental conditions no longer exist on Earth. Crop yields are already down 20 percent. With environmental conditions steadily worsening by the day, large-scale monocultures expanding around the world, arable land disappearing and population forecast to balloon to 9 to 10 billion in the not to distant future, in all probability, there will not be enough food to go around…. Hmm, not lookin good at all for industrial civilization.” -OSJ

Written By Tim McDonnell @ Mother Jones:

For billions of people around the world, the most immediate threat posed by climate change is at the dinner table, as staple crops face a steadily worsening onslaught of drought, heat waves, and other extreme weather events. The United States certainly isn’t immune to these challenges; for proof, just look at California, where an unprecedented drought has cost the state’s agriculture industry billions.

Still, the conventional thinking among many scientists is that developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia—where people are typically hit harder by food price spikes and generally more reliant on agriculture as a primary source of income—are the most vulnerable to food-related climate impacts.

A paper published today in Nature may add a wrinkle to that assumption. Scientists often track the impact that an individual weather disaster has on crops (again, see California), but the new research takes it a step further.

A team of scientists from Canada and the United Kingdom compiled the first-ever global tally of how weather disasters over the past 50 years cut into production of staple cereals. After merging a database of global weather records with a UN record of country-level crop production, the researchers found that, as a rule of thumb, droughts and heat waves typically cut a country’s cereal production by 10 percent. That basically accords with predictions from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s predictions for agricultural vulnerability in the future.

But unexpectedly, the researchers also found that the impacts were 8 to 11 percent more severe in developed countries than in developing ones.

“That was a surprise to us,” said Navin Ramankutty, an agricultural geographer at the University of British Columbia.

Ramankutty said it’s not yet clear why droughts and heat waves tend to hit yields in the United States, Europe, and Australia harder than those in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. But he suspects it relates to how farmers set their priorities. In developed countries, the emphasis is often on maximizing profit with big monoculture farms that work great in good climates but get trashed when the weather turns sour. Farmers in developing countries, by contrast, may prioritize minimizing their risk, taking a smaller yield in exchange for better resilience.

Of course, these findings don’t mean developing countries are out of harm’s way. They still face major challenges from climate change, since comparatively small yield losses can have an outsized impact on local economies and food security. But Ramankutty says the new research shows that even in the developed world, farmers may be more at risk from climate change than anyone previously realized.

 

 

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Say So Long To Soil: The ‘Unfolding Global Disaster’ Happening Right Under Our Feet

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2016 at 8:01 pm

Oldspeak: Old story. We’re running out of soil. Only it’s getting worse. It took us about a century and a half to destroy half of Earth’s topsoil, and in the last 40 years, we’ve exterminated another third of it.”This is catastrophic when you think that it takes about 500 years to form 2.5 cm of topsoil under normal agricultural conditions.” -Duncan Cameron.  Meanwhile, ecocidal Concentrated Animal Farming Operations (CAFOs) and large-scale industrial agricultural operations continue to gobble up land worldwide, destroying forests, poisoning water sources and eradicating habitats for untold flora and fauna at an ever-increasing pace. When you consider that we probably don’t have 500 years to replenish the lost soil, nor seemingly the inclination, this is not good. Especially given the fact that soil is a major carbon sink. Happy New Year Kids! -OSJ

Written By Natasha Gelling @ Think Progress:

With all that’s going on in the world — from record-breaking warm spells to rapidly melting ice sheets — it’s easy to ignore something so seemingly mundane as dirt. But scientists at the University of Sheffield’s Grantham Center for Sustainable Futures suggest that we ignore dirt at our own peril.

Nearly a third of the world’s arable land has been lost over the past four decades, according to a new report, released to coincide with the Paris climate talks earlier this month. Experts at the the University of Sheffield called this soil loss “an unfolding global disaster” that directly threatens the agricultural productivity of the planet.

But soil erosion isn’t just a problem for food security — which is expected to become even more pressing as the world’s population booms and land available for food production wanes. Soil erosion is also tied to the climate, as the world’s soils represent a massive carbon storage system, containing three times the amount of carbon that is currently in the atmosphere.

“If the soil carbon reserve is not managed properly, it can easily overwhelm the atmosphere,” Rattan Lal, director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center at Ohio State University, told ThinkProgress in April.

The University of Sheffield report places most of the blame for soil erosion on what it calls unsustainable farming practices, which require large amounts of fertilizers and tilling to boost crop yields. Switching to a more sustainable model of intensive agriculture, the report urges, can help offset soil loss.

Right now, the report found that plowed fields lose soil to erosion at a rate 10 to 100 times greater than soil formation, meaning that the Earth is currently losing valuable land faster than it can be naturally replenished. Replenishing topsoil naturally is not a quick process — it takes about 500 years to replenish just 2.5 cm of topsoil. According to the World Wildlife Fund, about half of the world’s topsoil has been lost in the last century and a half.

“Soil is lost rapidly but replaced over millennia, and this represents one of the greatest global threats to agriculture,” University of Sheffield biology professor Duncan Cameron, co-author of the report, said in a press statement. “This is catastrophic when you think that it takes about 500 years to form 2.5 cm of topsoil under normal agricultural conditions.”

Over-plowing fields constantly disturbs top soil, exposing the microbes that live within it to oxygen and releasing its stored carbon. That, in turn, impacts soil’s ability to store more carbon. It also degrades the soil’s structural integrity, impeding its ability to absorb water and act as a buffer against floods, or store water for plants. Degraded soil can wash away more easily during extreme precipitation events, causing rivers and streams to become flooded with silt and sediment, which can impact ecosystems in the water.

Degraded soil is also less fertile than non-degraded soil in terms of agricultural productivity — a worrisome reality for a planet that is expected to need to increase its agricultural production 50 percent by 2050. According to the United Nations, 95 percent of our food comes from the soil, but about one-third of the world’s soils are currently degraded. For sub-Saharan Africa, that number jumps to about two-thirds, which the Montpellier Panel — an international group working to support national and regional agricultural development and food security priorities in sub-Saharan Africa — estimates costs the region about $68 billion per year in lost productivity. If topsoil loss is not slowed or reversed, the U.N. estimates that all of the world’s topsoil could be gone within 60 years.

In order to slow or reverse the trend of soil degradation, the University of Sheffield report suggests a few tweaks to the currently agricultural model. First, they suggest a more hands-on approach to soil management with cover crops and no-till soil, both of which can help boost soil health by keeping soil microbes from being exposed to oxygen and preserving a system of roots that keeps soil more tightly packed. The report also suggests weaning the world off of synthetic fertilizers and returning to the age-old but currently-underused tradition of applying night soil — also known as human sewage — to cropland, which the report argues can help restore nitrogen and phosphorus back to the soil.

As part of the U.N. climate talks, the French government launched a program aimed at studying the best methods for restoring soil health and aiding carbon sequestration. Dubbed “4 pour 1,000,” as a nod to the idea that a .4 percent increase in soil carbon annually would offset human emissions, the program is a partnership between the French government, agricultural development bodies like CGIAR, and several developing nations. The project hopes to sequester 25 megatons of carbon while boosting farming yields by 20 percent.

“The good thing is that no one disagrees that increasing soil carbon is good for agriculture, is good for the environment, good for food security,” CGIAR CEO Frank Rijsberman told ThinkProgress during the Paris conference. “If we can do it in a stable way, it captures carbon and reduces emissions. It can be a double or triple win.”

 

Tyndall Center Study: Rampant Climate Change Driven Ever-Rising Atmospheric CO2 Levels Pose Serious Threat To World Food Supply

In Uncategorized on March 25, 2014 at 6:53 pm

 

Photo by kevin dooley (CC BY 2.0)

 

Oldspeak:Yields of several major crops are likely to be seriously affected by rising temperatures, scientists say, with spells of extreme heat posing the greatest risk.” – Tim Radford

“1 in 8 people on the planet is suffering from chronic undernourishment. 16 million in developed countries, and 852 million in developing countries, or 52 times more people. The richest fifth of the world’s people consumes 86 percent of all goods. Extreme inequality couldn’t be more clear than that. Knowing that it’s easy to see who will suffer most, as if they weren’t suffering enough now, in the coming anthropocentric global warming caused calamities of water scarcity and famine. We are seeing the beginning stages of it in the American West, and it’s full blown and out of control in places like Uganda, where they’re “….. seeing drought. Serious drought that has not happened before. This drought has caused famine in parts of the country. In other parts, there has been too much rainIt has been very hot these days. Over the years it has gotten hotter with more unpredictable weather.’ -Benon Twineobusingye, Senior Human Resource Manager, Ugandan Government. Again, this is not something far off in the future, it is happening RiGHT NOW. Socio-economic factors are utterly irrelevant to the abrupt impacts of climate change. There’s no where else for us to go.  “Developed” countries will be plunged into the warming induced unpredictability and instability as the “developing” countries are, even The Ministry Of Love said so.  in the description of our “civilization” is the fundamental problem. “Development”. Development has allowed humans to decouple our existence from the well being of Great Mother who has graciously provided her invaluable natural capital to us; only to be reduced to  mere “resources”, “property” and  “externalities”. This dangerously imbalanced world cannot continue to function normally. The fever is mild now, but when it gets higher look out! -OSJ

By Tim Radford @ The Daily Climate:

LONDON – Rampant climate change driven by ever-rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere poses a serious threat to world food supply, according to a new study in Environmental Research Letters.

The hazard comes not from high average temperatures, but the likelihood of heat extremes at times when crops are most sensitive to stress. The message: Those communities that rely on maize as a staple are more at risk than most.

Delphine Derying of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia in the UK and colleagues looked at one of the big puzzles of the coming decades: What will global warming do for crop yields?

Timing is everything

It is not a simple question. Climate change means more evaporation, more precipitation, longer growing seasons, more warmth, and higher levels of the carbon dioxide that plants exploit by photosynthesis (the process they use to convert light into chemical energy), so the consequence ought to be greater yields. But as every farmer knows, what matters most is the timing of all that warmth, rain, and those dry spells in which the harvest can ripen.

There is a second consideration. Climate is the sum of all events. Rather than a steady overall rise in daily temperatures, an increasing number of ever-larger regions are predicted to experience ever more intense extremes of heat, and sometimes cold. Plants can be very sensitive to extremes of heat at flowering time. If the thermometer goes up, the pollen becomes increasingly sterile and less seed is likely to be set. So an extended heat wave in the wrong season could be calamitous.

Business as usual

The Tyndall team included the assumption that nothing would be done about climate change – that is, that governments, industry and people would continue with a business-as-usual scenario. They then chose three well-studied and vital crops – spring wheat, maize and soybean – and tested predictions under 72 different climate change scenarios for the rest of this century.

They allowed for the already-established benign effects of carbon dioxide-driven warming, one of which is that plants can make more tissue and at the same time use water more efficiently, and therefore respond more effectively to drought conditions. They also looked for the outcomes in places where yields could be most vulnerable: For example, the North American corn belt.

What they found was that – if carbon dioxide fertilization effects are not taken into account – then maize, wheat and soya yields are all likely to fall, in all five top-producing countries for each of these crops.

Positive impacts

When they factored in the benefits of more CO2 in the atmosphere, the picture changed. There would be positive impacts on soya and wheat, but not on maize.

There is another proviso: So far, the benefits of extra CO2 have been confirmed in experimental plant laboratories. The experience in the fields 60 years in the future may be rather different. And in any case, these positive impacts could be severely offset by extremes of heat at the moment when the crops were most vulnerable, so overall, harvests remain at risk.

The best answer, the scientists argue, is to attempt to limit climate change. “Climate mitigation policy would help reduce risks of serious negative impacts on maize worldwide and reduce risks of extreme heat stress that threaten global crop production,” Deryng said.

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Tim Radford is an editor at Climate News Network, a journalism news service delivering news and commentary about climate change for free to media outlets worldwide.

The Daily Climate is an independent, foundation-funded news service covering energy, the environment and climate change. Find us on Twitter @TheDailyClimate or email editor Douglas Fischer at dfischer [at] DailyClimate.org

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