12th October, 2010
Large-scale crop failures are likely to become more common in the face of climate change,Â scientists have warned.
Rising temperatures could mean events such as the wheat crisis which recently took placeÂ in most parts of the world, would become more frequent, researchers from the UniversityÂ of Leeds, the Met Office and the University of Exeter said.
But they said the worst effects of climate change could be limited by investment inÂ better farming and the development of new drought resistant or heat tolerant crops.
In a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the scientists warnedÂ that rising temperatures would make crops mature more quickly, reducing their yield,Â while extreme temperatures could also significantly reduce yields.
More droughts would affect crops, while more intense monsoon rains could lead to floodingÂ and crop damage, the researchers said.
Lead author of the study, Dr Andy Challinor from the University of Leeds, said: â€˜Due toÂ the importance of international trade, crop failure is an issue that affects everyone onÂ the planet, not just those in crop-growing regions.
â€˜More extreme weather events are expected to occur in the coming years due to climateÂ change and we have shown that these events are likely to lead to more crop failures.
â€˜What we need to do now is think about the solutions. It is highly unlikely that we willÂ find a single intervention that is a â€œsilver bulletâ€ for protecting crops from failure.â€™
An approach was needed which combined building up crop tolerance to heat and water stressÂ alongside investment in agriculture, the researchers suggested.
Co-author Dr Evan Fraser, from the University of Leeds, said: â€˜It appears that moreÂ developed countries with a higher GDP tend to evolve more advanced coping mechanisms forÂ extreme events.
â€˜In China this is happening organically as the economy is growing quickly, but poorerÂ regions such as Africa are likely to require more in the way of aid for such development.
â€˜What is becoming clear is that we need to adopt a holistic approach: new crops for aÂ changing climate and better farming practices that can only come about under moreÂ favourable socio-economic conditions.â€™