The temperature of the earth is gradually increasing, leading to changes in seasonal cycles and heightened occurrences of severe weather conditions like droughts and heat waves. These conditions can have an impact on the production of crops and the availability of food.
A new study conducted by Tufts University researchers has shown that heat waves, which occurred once every hundred years in 1981, are now expected to occur once every six years in the Midwestern U.S. and once every 16 years in Northeastern China. This could have a significant impact on crop yields in the wheat-producing regions of the U.S. and China.
Using the Unprecedented Simulated Extreme Ensemble or UNSEEN approach, the researchers were able to estimate the likely frequency of extreme temperatures that exceed critical growth thresholds for wheat.
It is worth noting that the growth of winter wheat crops begins in the fall and they are usually harvested the following summer. It is important to keep in mind that the wheat’s development may be impacted by high temperatures during the flowering stage in the spring.
When the temperature reaches 27.8 degrees Celsius (approximately 82 degrees Fahrenheit), the wheat plants may start experiencing heat stress. Additionally, if the temperature goes beyond 32.8 degrees Celsius (about 91 degrees Fahrenheit), it may lead to the breakdown of crucial enzymes in the wheat.
The U.S. and China are known to be major contributors to the world’s grain production, making them global breadbaskets. In the event that these wheat crops were to fail concurrently or alongside other staple crops, it could potentially result in significant consequences on the accessibility and cost of food worldwide.
The results obtained can be of great assistance in making well-informed decisions regarding climate adaptation in these regions. This will enable stakeholders to adequately prepare for any unprecedented events that may arise.
Reference- Journal Climate and Atmospheric Science, Phys.org Article, National Geographic