Bloomberg News

Farmers See Future of Climate Change With Scientists’ Time Trip

December 11, 2011

Dec. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Farmers will be able to gauge the effects of climate change by “virtual time travel” to match growing conditions on their farm 20 years from now with those in existing locations, according to a team of scientists.

Making the link between future conditions and places which have that climate today will help farmers adapt to changes in temperature and precipitation, Julian Ramirez, a researcher at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, or CIAT, said in an e-mailed statement today.

Long-term climate change may have “catastrophic” effects on food production, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said in March. Wheat and corn yields will likely drop on rising temperatures, research by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center shows.

“Climate change will significantly alter growing conditions, but in most places the new farming environment will not be novel in the global context,” Ramirez said. “Rather, the situation in the future will closely resemble conditions that already exist in other parts of the world.”

The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security developed software to find “climate analogues” that will help farmers maintain future productivity, the group said in today’s statement.

Argentina, Uruguay

Corn growers around Durban in South Africa face a 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) temperature increase during the growing season by 2030, and studies at Stanford University indicate that may cut yields by about 20 percent, the group said. At the same time, farmers in Argentina and Uruguay are growing corn at average temperatures that are 3 degrees higher.

Soybean farmers in Argentina and the central and southern U.S. already manage conditions similar to those that farmers around Shanghai will experience within about 20 years, according to the statement.

“If Chinese farmers want to continue growing soybean, they need to look at the kinds of farming practices and crop varieties that farmers in northern Argentina and other analogue regions are growing,” Andy Jarvis, a researcher at CIAT, said in the statement.

The “climate analogues tool” compares locations based on similarities in precipitation and temperature, as well as factors including soil type, according to the statement.

The software can also be used to select a location and identify where similar climates may be in 2030, according to the researchers. The mild winter months in today’s Los Angeles may be found in the southern parts of the U.S.’s eastern seaboard as well as France, northern Germany and the Netherlands by 2030, according to the statement.

--Editors: Claudia Carpenter, John Deane

To contact the reporter on this story: Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris at rruitenberg@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at ccarpenter2@bloomberg.net.


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