Extreme heat will also change the way we eat

Mapped by the US Drought Monitor, a multi-federal agency project United States and from the University of Nebraska, colorful ads cover the landscape. Michigan is unusually dry. Minnesota is experiencing a period of moderate drought. Severe drought has hit the Pacific Northwest, central Texas and southern Wisconsin, while the states of Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas are dotted with scarlets and deep reds that indicate the most troubling situations. All these areas are in the state severe drought and in some cases they are in a state that the project defines as “exceptionalwhere the effects will last for more than six months.

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These areas are dry due to the heat. The extreme heatwaves that have gripped parts of the United States are not only making life worse for people like city dwellers without a proper indoor cooling system, or drivers and farm workers forced to work outdoors. They also cost crop damage: They slow down growth, reduce yields and damage crops. Unrest is not yet a disaster; The United States continues to produce enough food to feed its population and for international trade. But crop and climate experts fear it’s a sign growing instability in food productionbecause the unpredictability of the climate undermines the seasonal patterns that farmers rely on.

“Climate models for agriculture have made predictions for the future based on what has happened in the past.“explains Erin Coughlan de Perez, climate scientist and assistant professor in Tufts University’s Friedman School of Science and Policy, and lead author of a June study predicting that Centenary heatwaves may begin to recur with a six-year frequency in the Midwest. American, endangering the development of wheat plants. “In the past, temperature may not have been the limit for grain; perhaps temperatures were never reached to cause crop loss – continues Coughlan de Perez –but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future“.

Global problem

News from the US reveals heat and drought damage to crops. In Georgia, which still bears the nickname Peach State, the peach state, although only the third largest producer in the United States, almost all the peach crop was lost due to an unseasonable heat wave in February followed by two late frosts in March. Texas in June cotton plants lost their bolls, fruits that contain the crop’s precious fiber to survive the metabolic stress caused by hot nights. Expected that winter wheat harvest Kansas, which is harvested in the summer, will be the leanest in over twenty years.

The problems posed by extreme heat are not limited to US farms. There Spain, the world’s largest olive oil producer, is facing a disappointing harvest for the second year in a row as spring heat disrupted olive blossoms, followed by extreme summer heat that caused unripe fruit to drop. scorching heat in Italy, he cut tomato production by a third. In July, the European agricultural organization Copa-Cogeca predicted that heat and drought would reduce grain yields in almost all EU countries. L’India, the world’s largest exporter of rice, has banned the export of some varieties as abnormal weather cuts production. IN China, both row crops and farm animals died from the heatwaves. IN IranLast week, the government put the entire country on lockdown for two days due to high temperatures.

All these unexpected deficits in agricultural markets are getting worse ongoing crisis in Ukraine, one of the main granaries of the world, which has been under attack by Russia for more than 500 days. In July, Russia unilaterally withdrew from the UN pact that allowed the transportation of Ukrainian wheat from the Black Sea, which prevented a number of countries from receiving supplies and led to a sharp increase in world prices for wheat and corn. Russia then added that it would consider any cargo ship bound for Ukrainian ports as carrying military hardware, a not-so-veiled threat. It then shelled both the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa and grain warehouses at Reni and Izmail on the Danube, which analysts hoped could provide an alternative export route.

The bottling of Ukrainian grains and seeds is likely to put pressure on global markets and drive up prices, but agricultural experts note that other areas of the world that may fill the gap:”People tend to forget about the southern hemisphere – says Darren Hudson, professor and president of the International Center for Agricultural Competitiveness at Texas Tech University –. They think that everything that happens in Europe determines what happens in the world, but Brazil, Argentina, Australia they are all major producers of food crops. The southern hemisphere is planting during this period, so they have the opportunity to add acres“.

According to agronomists, the biggest problem associated with extreme weather is special crops: for example, peaches in Georgia and olives in Spain, as well as berries in the Pacific Northwest and cherries in western Michigan, hit hard by a heat wave two years ago, and California almonds, which suffered a double whammy last year. drought of the year and strong storms this spring. This type of culture is not global, but depends on the climatic conditions of individual regions and at the heart of the entire local economy. “Corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, rice can be grown at different latitudes. Chad Hart, economist and professor of agriculture at the University of Iowa, says But fruits and vegetables are much more prone to climate problems that lead to significant price changes“.

Loss of regional crop the problem is also in terms of food; if a plant is supposed to supply an important nutrient in the diet and it doesn’t work, you need to look elsewhere for that vitamin. This is also added the task of forecasting future harvests. After all, no farmer would ever plant a crop unless he was moderately confident that it would grow.

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We actually had enough rain in April and probably early May that we looked like we were going to have a great harvest. (from cotton) if we had more rain in june – says Joshua McGinty, associate professor at Texas A&M University and agronomist –; but then the heat came, and in addition the earth dried up. We have gone from very optimistic cotton yield estimates to perhaps average for some of the best varieties and certainly below average for many of our later cotton varieties.“.”But interestingly, our crops cereals, corn and sorghumwere mostly above average this year. The spring was not very hot, we had good rains and the harvest was excellent “.

In coastal Texas, corn and sorghum are harvested by mid-July, and the heat has been ahead of its time this year. This made 2023 a better year than 2022, when McGinty said there was no rain during the growing season. But also in 2021, when it was raining incessantly instead. This unpredictability is what drives the research McGinty is doing at his station and at many other universities to find crops that have been crossbred to withstand an unpredictable climate and long-term changes: corn that can withstand drought, cotton that can withstand warm nights, rice with stronger stems to withstand gale-force winds.

But when weather patterns change, agriculture has no choice but to follow suit. That’s why North Dakota, once a hub of durum wheat production, has made a significant shift over the past 20 years to growing corn and soybeans, crops that love warmer, wetter climates. “The idea is to grow the plants that grow best in your area Hart says.that have changed over time“.

This article originally appeared on Wired US.

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