Climate change forces corn farmers to adapt

Corn is doing fine now, but may be in trouble in the near future (/img)

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | December 18th, 2018

The recently released U.S. Fourth National Climate Assessment projects warmer winters, longer periods of pest infestations, and droughts. These environmental changes will inevitably make farming difficult, and will likely lower corn, soybean, and wheat yields.

Despite these scary projections, corn farmers in the Midwest are currently adjusting their planting practices to suit the changing weather patterns, something that has actually been increasing yields. Stalks are being planted closer together, a practice that helps the soil beneath hold more water. Summer heat causes transpiration, where plants pull water up from the soil through their stalks and release it through stomata–small pores in their leaves. This process works much like sweating, and cools down the weather enough to keep hot summer days bearable, creating an ideal atmosphere for more yields.

This benefit may only be temporary, however–as the effects climate change amps up, corn loses some of its natural resilience.

The ancient grain has proved especially responsive to development and research that’s helped breed resistance to pests and temperature changes, lending farmers a level of control over planting and harvest times that their ancestors would have never benefitted from. Despite the incredible resilience of corn, there are still looming issues that threaten to make corn yields take a nose dive.

Weather that peaks too high or brings too early a frost can greatly damage harvests. These unpredictable weather patterns may become too difficult for farmers to combat, and the current temporary boon in crop harvests may eventually slow down.


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