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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Sep 15;106(37):15594-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0906865106. Epub 2009 Aug 28.

Nonlinear temperature effects indicate severe damages to U.S. crop yields under climate change.

Author information

1
Department of Economics and School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA. wolfram.schlenker@columbia.edu

Abstract

The United States produces 41% of the world's corn and 38% of the world's soybeans. These crops comprise two of the four largest sources of caloric energy produced and are thus critical for world food supply. We pair a panel of county-level yields for these two crops, plus cotton (a warmer-weather crop), with a new fine-scale weather dataset that incorporates the whole distribution of temperatures within each day and across all days in the growing season. We find that yields increase with temperature up to 29 degrees C for corn, 30 degrees C for soybeans, and 32 degrees C for cotton but that temperatures above these thresholds are very harmful. The slope of the decline above the optimum is significantly steeper than the incline below it. The same nonlinear and asymmetric relationship is found when we isolate either time-series or cross-sectional variations in temperatures and yields. This suggests limited historical adaptation of seed varieties or management practices to warmer temperatures because the cross-section includes farmers' adaptations to warmer climates and the time-series does not. Holding current growing regions fixed, area-weighted average yields are predicted to decrease by 30-46% before the end of the century under the slowest (B1) warming scenario and decrease by 63-82% under the most rapid warming scenario (A1FI) under the Hadley III model.

PMID:
19717432
PMCID:
PMC2747166
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.0906865106
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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