Changing weather patterns are starting to strike at the heart of American food production, according to a new report which reveals the impact of climate change on corn production. The Ceres report shows that recent extreme weather events (like the Midwest drought of 2012 that drove corn prices to a record high) offer a taste of what is predicted to become the new normal in many parts of the Corn Belt.
Nearly a third of farmland in the U.S. is used for growing corn, and that land produces about 40 percent of the world’s corn supply. According to the report the corn industry has doubled in size over the past 20 years and contributes about $65 billion annually to the American economy. The expansion has created a growing demand for irrigation, which has also stressed water sources like the High Plains Aquifer that stretches across eight states in the Great Plains, as well as California’s Central Valley Aquifer. “Corn is an essential input to our economy, and climate change, water scarcity and pollution are a critical threat to that sector going forward,” Ceres water program director Brooke Barton told the Guardian.
According to the Guardian, this report adds another warning bell to those sounded earlier in 2014 by United Nations climate scientists and the National Climate Assessment, that the American agricultural industry and more specifically corn is at risk from high temperatures and water shortages expected to result from climate change. Plus, corn is one of the worst crops for the environment, requiring more water and fertilizer than any other. Of the land irrigated for corn production, 87 percent is experiencing water shortages and the heavy use of fertilizer for corn production is the largest cause of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
Via The Guardian.