Corn, Crops And Climate Change

Drought Stressed Corn – 2012

Summer in a Climate Changing Iowa
By Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | Iowa Environmental Focus

Iowa summers have always been hot and humid, but the summer of 2018 in particular has had unusual temperature spikes early in the season. Brutal waves of heat and humidity have left many to wonder exactly how Iowa got to this point.

On average, between 1901 and 2016, Iowa’s average temperatures rose about one degree. Only one degree–but the temperature increase has profound effects regardless.

Crops are affected by even incremental temperature increases, especially corn, which has long been a staple crop of the Midwest. All it takes, according to Des Moines researcher Michelle Tigchalaar, is an average temperature increase of 2 to 4 degrees Celsius–or between 3.6 and 7.2 Fahrenheit–for overall crop yields across the United States to decrease by a staggering 18%.

Iowa, with its 1 degree increase, is a quarter of the way there already.

Potential solutions include working on adapting corn and other crops to become more resistant to climate and temperature changes and implementing architecture and infrastructure designed to keep ground-level areas cooler and deflect heat, but the climate may change quicker than we can combat it.

~ Re-blogged from Iowa Environmental Focus which can be found here.

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1 Response to Corn, Crops And Climate Change

  1. Anne Duncan says:

    Ironically, one of the most effective and not-very-expensive ways that we Iowans could fight climate change would be to store more carbon in our soils. And it can be done — Iowa soils, when they were continuously being built by prairie vegetation, were an incredible carbon reservoir. But the way we farm, largely because of tillage, has caused our soils to lose massive amounts of carbon, not store it. And that’s apart from our current high rates of soil erosion that release carbon too.

    The best new research shows the average Iowa cropped acre is losing topsoil at more than twenty times the replacement rate. That incredible figure should be known to all voters in this state, not just a few worried soil geeks.

    We could be using cover crops, perennial strips, buffers, extended crop rotations, and other methods of turning those bad numbers around. We could start storing carbon in our soils again. That would also help our water quality enormously. We could be doing it if farmers admitted the necessity for ALL OF THEM, required, to use these techniques,not just a small percentage of farmers. We could do it if all the rest of us acknowledged the necessity to help pay what is needed for this transformation.

    Instead, the big farm groups are fighting against any talk of conservation requirements and are arguing, in spite of obvious realities that show otherwise, that our current grossly-inadequate approaches to soil and water protection are working. And many of the rest of us are paying no attention and/or are arguing, at least privately, that it’s all farmers’ fault and they should have to pony up all the money to fix the problems. Even many Iowa fifth-graders could tell us that this is not the way to solve a big important problem.


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