Climate Change Predicted to Hit Wheat Production — and the U.S. is Going to Be One of the Worst Places Affected

Money Time |

Scientists have come to understand more fully what the climate change will do to some of our staple crops, namely wheat, one of the most basic food sources for people all over the world. 

What scientists have realized is that most parts of the world where wheat is grown will experience water shortages in the next 80 years. Unfortunately, the U.S. will not go unscathed; in fact, according to the authors of the research published in the journal Science Advances, we could be one of the countries most affected by a drought.

This research predicts that by the year 2100, 60 percent of wheat growing areas will experience water scarcity. Currently, that number is a much lower 15 percent. 

It’s now more important than ever that we make efforts to hit the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change which means keeping average post-industrial global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius. Doing so could "substantially reduce the negative effects" of what’s to come.

However, even if we accomplish this, growers experiencing difficulty in being able to water their crops may double between 2041 and 2070 in comparison to the current conditions. Researchers have created a model based on drought conditions during the season in which wheat is grown to help with these predictions.

Co-authors Miroslav Trnka, of the Czech Academy of Sciences, and Song Feng, of the University of Arkansas, told Newsweek that they had found through their research that soil would be affected by the climate change, becoming much less moist all across mainland U.S. states. 

Because of this, America may be "one of the top most affected wheat producers" regarding the areas that will be affected by such a serious drought.

Though a more detailed study is yet to be done, farmers and the amount of wheat exported will undoubtedly be affected. However, since Americans have such a purchasing power, it’s likely that we won’t suffer as much as a developing nation would, says Trnka and Feng. 

Major Exporters Will Take a Hit

Those most affected will be major exporters, most of whom are in already developed countries "suggesting major challenges on wheat production and a high risk of food price spikes in the future," they said. "This scenario will add further hardship to the importers and the developing countries."

The possibilities of disaster are quite "unsettling" as they see thousand made homeless, countries “ruined,” and even possible death. "It is not a future that must happen but maybe more likely under the future climate," they said.

Between 2006 and 2050, the Food and Agriculture Organization foresees a 43 percent increase in demand for cereals, including maize, rice, sorghum, millet, and wheat, the number one rain-fed crop grown in terms of harvest area. 

Research also suggests a 4.0 to 6.5 percent drop in wheat production globally per 1 degree Celsius of warming. Unfortunately, wheat is one of the least thirsty plants, so it’s unlikely that it can be replaced.

That being the case, "it might be difficult to meet the demand even if the trade routes stay open and are not restricted by governmental measures," warned Feng and Trnka, if multiple areas are affected at once.

They did say, however: "Studies show that if we continuously improve the sustainability and technologies in the coming decades and allow for international trade, we may overcome the negative impacts of climate change."