One of the biggest concerns about climate change is the effect it will have on agriculture. Many studies have suggested that rising temperatures could be harmful to farms around the world, although there is plenty of uncertainty about how bad things will get and which food supplies we should worry about most.
Now, a new study published last week in Nature Climate Change, reiterates concerns that wheat, the most significant single crop in terms of human consumption might be in big trouble.
After comparing multiple studies used to predict the future of global crop production, researchers have found that they all agree on one point, rising temperatures are going to be really bad for wheat production.
According to the Washington Post, the authors of the new study, who included dozens of scientists from institutions in China, the United States, Europe and elsewhere around the world, after the research, realised that a global temperature increase of 1 degree Celsius would lead to a worldwide decline in wheat yield by between 4.1 and 6.4 per cent.
The world currently produces more than 700 million tonnes of wheat annually, which is converted into all kinds of products for human consumption, including flour for bread, pasta, cakes, breakfast cereals and more. A reduction of just five per cent would translate to a loss of about 35 million tonnes each year.
And that could spell big trouble for the global food supply.
A new report from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) projected that world wheat production for the 2016/17 year would hit 741 million tonnes, nearly 500 million of which is destined to be used directly for human consumption.
While global production of coarse grains, including corn, does outweigh the production of wheat, a significantly smaller proportion of it goes to human consumption worldwide, with the rest being used for animal feed and industrial purposes. According to the FAO, global human consumption of coarse grains comes to about 200 million tonnes annually.
In general, the results suggest that warmer regions of the world will experience the greatest temperature-related losses. However, the agreement among the different study methods on exactly what these losses will be was less consistent for smaller countries than for the larger producers.
“The consistent negative impact from increasing temperatures confirmed by three independent methods warrants critical needed investment in climate change adaptation strategies to counteract the adverse effects of rising temperatures on global wheat production, including genetic improvement and management adjustments,” the researchers wrote in the paper.