A new study from researchers at Kansas State University found that in future decades, at least one-quarter of the global wheat productions will be lost because of extreme weather if no adaptive measures are taken.
The university team projected that wheat yields will decrease by 6 percent for each degree Celsius the temperature rises. If we assume this projection to be true, the temperature increase would result in a loss of 42 million tons of wheat based on the 2012-2013 harvest of 701 million tons.
"It's pretty severe," said Vara Prasad, professor of crop ecophysiology and director of the USAID Feed the Future Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab at Kansas State University. "The projected effect of climate change on wheat is more than what has been forecast. That's challenging because the world will have to at least double our food supply in the next 30 years if we're going to feed 9.6 billion people."
Through the research team’s analysis of 30 wheat crop models tested against field experiments from around the world, the team found the effects of climate change on wheat production would be more severe and happen sooner than expected.
"Extreme temperature doesn't only mean heat; it also means cold," Prasad said. "Simply looking at the average temperature doesn't really show us anything because it's the extremities that are more detrimental to crops. Plants can handle gradual changes because they have time to adapt, but an extreme heat wave or cold snap can kill a plant because that adjustment period is often nonexistent."