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Climate Change Means More Farmland but Fewer Harvests

Sep 18, 2014 07:45 PM EDT
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Researcher have recently crafted a new model of how climate change will impact agricultural production around the world, and they have found that it isn't as simple as "good" or "bad" consequences.
(Photo : Pixabay)

Researchers have recently crafted a new model of how climate change will impact agricultural production around the world, and they have found that it isn't as simple as "good" or "bad" consequences.

According to Wolfram Mauser at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, about two-thirds of all land that could even be potentially suitable for agricultural use in its current state is already in use, with the last third either part of protected ecosystems or likely going to be put into use in the approaching decades and the world population continues to grow.

However, according to a study recently published in the journal PLOS One, projected land distribution by 2100 may improve, with climate change potentially creating new suitable soil across the globe.

The study, led by Mauser, created a map for projected viable cropland distribution by measuring ecological factors such as soil quality, water supply, topography, and - of course - climate.

These conditions were considered with the ideal growing conditions of 16 major food and energy crops in mind, such as maize, rice, and wheat.

"Based on the environmental requirements for growth of these plants, in terms of climate, soil and terrain, one can determine whether or not a given location on Earth provides conditions required by specific crops,"  Florian Zabel, one of the authors of the study, explained in a recent release.

(Photo : Dr. Florian Zabel, LMU)

The projections indicated that climate change will expand the supply of cropland in the high latitudes of the Northern hemisphere (Canada, Russia, China) over the next 100 years, largely thanks to things like changing precipitation patterns and permafrost melt.

"Much of the additional area is, however, at best only moderately suited to agricultural use, so the proportion of highly fertile land used for crop production will decrease," Zabel added.

Top that off with the fact that drought conditions for some preexisting agricultural regions is expected, the researchers expect that even as land increases, yield may not due to fewer and sparser harvests.

So these results, while good, certainly don't sway concerns about the future of the world's food supplies.

"In the context of current projections, which predict that the demand for food will double by the year 2050 as the result of population increase, our results are quite alarming."

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