Corn is the staple crop of the US. Its annual yield is more than twice that of any other American crop, covering an astounding 125,000 square miles. However, this behemoth crop is not without threats. A new analysis by Environment America, shows that lower yields of corn due to global warming will cost farmers 1.4 billion every year.
“Corn likes it cool, but global warming is raising temperatures across the nation,” said Environment America Global Warming Advocate Timothy Telleen-Lawton. “Hotter fields will mean lower yields for corn, and eventually, the rest of agriculture.”
While popular wisdom often believed that global warming would be good for US agriculture, recent studies have shown the opposite. The United States Climate Change Science Program found in 2008 that higher temperatures linked to global warming would mean lower corn yields. Research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Carnegie Institution shows that corn yields are already being affected negatively by warming.
Based on the findings by the United States Climate Change Science Program, Environment America estimated the annual economic loss due to lower yields in a report “Hotter Field, Lower Yields”. The report does not incorporate other possible negative impacts to corn yields from global warming, including drought, extreme storms, and disease.
The report also highlights the top ten states to have their pocket books hit by lower corn yields. Iowa is at the top losing over a quarter billion dollar a year. Illinois is a close second, losing $243 million. The list includes, in this order: Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana, South Dakota, Kansas, Ohio, Missouri, and Wisconsin. The ten states average a loss of $116 million each.
Despite its economic importance, not everyone would be upset by less corn in America. Many nutritionists have linked the large-quantities of corn in the American diet to obesity and disease.
(02/05/2009) Secretary of Energy Steven Chu warned climate change could severely impact California agricultural industry by the end of the century, reported the Los Angeles Times.
(12/15/2008) Expansion of corn acreage to meet ethanol targets is reducing the ability of beneficial insects to control pests, a loss valued at $58 million in the four states studied (Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin), report researchers writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
(11/10/2008) American fast food is almost entirely produced from corn according to a chemical analysis of dishes served at McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s. The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.