How Climate Change Is Threatening Crops and Our Food Supply

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Many nations in the world may already be experiencing their peak yields for certain grain crops like rice, wheat and corn, but now two alarming new studies have been released that predict that the long-term security of our food crops will be further compromised by climate change and other environmental factors such as air pollution.

In particular, research out of the Massachusetts Institute for Technology and published this summer in Nature Climate Change found that climate change and air pollution (particularly ozone pollution) not only act independent of each other in negatively impacting crops but also can often interact and cause additional damage.

The research -- which was conducted by Colette Heald, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at MIT; Amos Tai, assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; and Maria van Martin at Colorado State University -- analyzed the global production of rice, wheat, corn and soy. The researchers focused on these crops because they comprise more than half the calories consumed by humans around the world.

Heald and her team discovered it was increased ozone and not warming temperatures that has been responsible for 46% of damage to soybean crops worldwide. Meanwhile, wheat was found to be more vulnerable to ozone pollution, while corn was typically more impacted by heat. Overall, the models predicted that the effects of climate and air pollution on food crops would vary widely by region.

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