Impact of climate change on food production

impact of climate change
Table of Contents

Author: Dr. Adrian Gracia

Agricultural activities are complicated activities in themselves, as they are systems that are highly sensitive to many external factors. However, above all, they are highly sensitive to variations in climate and the impact of climate change.

A crop can be greatly affected by a variety of environmental factors. The productivity of a crop could be reduced by a punctual meteorological episode such as: a strong storm or hail, as well as alterations in climatic conditions during a whole cycle will also have important repercussions.

In this context, while pursuing the challenge of feeding a growing population, agriculture faces the challenge of improve crop productivity under the impact of climate change. A reduction in yields of staple crops, such as cereals, could jeopardize the food security of many countries.

Impact of climate change

Some of the main consequences that climate change is causing are greater instability in future crop yield projections impacting world agriculture. This is a result of rising temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns and the increased frequency and severity of weather-related catastrophes.

Both low water availability and high temperatures will cause crops not to develop physiologically in a correct way with highly negative effects on final productivity. And, increasingly, these pressures occur simultaneously during episodes of drought and heat waves.

According to recent scientific publications, under global warming scenarios of 1.5ºC, global corn production is estimated to be reduced by 6.8 to 7.2%, while if temperatures increase by 2.5ºC, global corn production will be reduced by 6.8 to 7.2%, while if temperatures increase by 2.5ºC, global corn production will be reduced by 6.8 to 7.2%.orC production could fluctuate by as much as 18.7%, which would greatly hurt countries such as the United States, China, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico [Source].

But it must be taken into account that these threats will not occur in the same way in all regions of the world, for example: while there will be areas that may experience more intense and frequent periods of drought while other areas will receive more abundant rainfall.

In addition, the optimal growing conditions are different for each crop. Considerable changes in the climate, influenced by the impact of climate change, will make it difficult to maintain the standard agricultural systems used in each area. For this reason, the approach to the actions to be applied to mitigate the effects of climate change must be a regional one.

What should be done?

To identify which areas may be the most affected, different prediction models based on different possible climate scenarios are used to derive relevant indicators for agricultural systems such as precipitation, maximum daily temperatures or minimum temperatures.

Understanding the degree of vulnerability or adaptation of crops to climate change variations is key to be able to design strategies to mitigate these effects and is one of the main objectives of plant breeding research centers worldwide.

Global impact of climate change

To give an example, in the latest reports of the international research center CGIAR (Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research), the impact of climate change was evident. The report identified reductions in crop growth period together with increased heat stress and reduced rainfall during the developmental stages as the most critical factors for agricultural production and positioned the regions of South Africa, West Africa, Central America, and India as the regions most at risk due to climate change effects.

The basic agricultural needs for optimal production vary for each crop, and a disturbance of these needs, influenced by the impact of climate change, can seriously affect yields. An increase in temperature patterns will not only lead to an increase in water demand but may also have an impact by accelerating crop development, as well as affecting the proliferation and spread of some species, such as insects, invasive weeds, or diseases.

These alterations in growing conditions that crops will face due to the impact of climate change will require adjustments in practical field management to avoid compromising production. Management options will mainly include irrigation management (quantity, timing, and location) to avoid the inefficient use of traditional methodologies, in which most water is wasted.

In this context, the implementation of precision agriculture tools helps to better identify in which areas irrigation is needed and at what time, to make more efficient use of water amidst the challenges posed by climate change.

Similarly, advanced methodologies that provide weather forecasts as well as information relevant to the growth cycle of the plants, allow farmers to anticipate and take the necessary measures to prevent possible losses due to changing climatic conditions.

How is HEMAV responding?

Some time ago a case came to HEMAV in which a farmer had registered a reduction in his production during the last 6 months. The team of specialists in precision agriculture conducted an agroclimatic study over the last 20 years.

Although no major anomalies were found in terms of temperature trends, the team detected an unusual increase in evapotranspiration dynamics for the historical series. ET0 or reference evapotranspiration is a parameter analyzed by HEMAV. ET0 is a value that measures the water demand of the crop, and takes into account other aspects that have an important impact on the crop, such as wind, solar radiation and relative humidity, in addition to temperature.

HEMAV through its LAYERS platform created specific alerts for each crop and from the historical analysis of your field determined all the possibilities as they could be implemented.

As a contingency measure for the future, a 7-day forecast is currently offered to warn of unfavorable situations for the crop, providing a margin of maneuver to mitigate the risk through irrigation.

impact of climate change
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