Drought harder on farms in developed countries: study

VANCOUVER -- New research suggests farms in developed countries may be more vulnerable to longer, deeper droughts predicted to occur as a result of climate change.

See Full Article

"(Those farms) are really good in terms of producing high yields in stable climates, but maybe they're more vulnerable to weather shocks," said Navin Ramankutty of the University of British Columbia, co-author of a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Ramankutty and his colleagues examined United Nations crop data from 177 countries between the years 1964 and 2007. Yields were correlated with about 2,800 extreme weather events over that time, including heat waves, droughts, cold snaps and floods.

The researchers found that droughts produced the greatest impact on yields. But in what Ramankutty called "a big surprise," droughts hit farms in North America, Europe and Australia much harder than they hit farms in less-developed countries.

In the developed countries, droughts cut yields by an average of nearly 20 per cent. The drop was just over 12 per cent in Asia and slightly more than nine per cent in Africa. In Latin America, droughts had no significant impact.

Ramankutty suggests the differences may be due to the type of agriculture commonly practised in developed nations -- large, intensively cultivated fields sown exclusively to one crop.

Western farmers may need to start thinking differently as climate becomes less and less predictable, Ramankutty said.

"That model works really well when the climate is stable, but it may not work so well when there is an extreme weather event."

In other countries, fields tend to be smaller and crops more diverse. That may give farms more resilience, Ramankutty suggested.

"Maybe their yields are lower but they're not as susceptible to weather shocks."

Scientists have long warned that more frequent and increasingly severe droughts are likely to be among the consequences of climate change.

Researchers have already concluded that climate change is at least partly behind 2014 droughts in California, Africa and the Middle East. The militaries of the United States and the United Kingdom take the issue seriously enough to have written strategic documents about the need to respond to extreme weather events, including drought.

Successful agriculture under climate change may require some trade-off between lower yields and greater resilience, Ramankutty said.

The issue is unlikely to go away.

The Earth is already locked in to an unknown amount of climate change while its human population is expected to keep growing. The United Nations predicts there will be about 10 billion mouths to feed by 2050, roughly 30 per cent more than today.

-- By Bob Weber in Edmonton



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Warming climate could affect life in Arctic Ocean, says new study

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Climate change is transforming the Arctic Ocean in ways that could permanently alter the food chain and impact ocean species, according to a new study. The study, published in the journal Science Advances, looked at the concentration of the chemical element radium-228 in the central Arctic Ocean and found that between 2007 and 2015 the concentration doubled. Source
  • No drunk or stoned droning: New Jersey passes ban

    Tech & Science CTV News
    New Jersey has added drunk droning to the statute books, outlawing the flying of unmanned aircraft after one too many drinks. The law makes it an offense to operate a drone under the influence of intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug or with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 per cent or more. Source
  • Environmental impact of N.S. turbines must be researched: executive director

    Tech & Science CTV News
    HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's bid to become a world leader in tidal energy received a boost today when Energy Minister Geoff MacLellan announced a new competition for research funding. MacLellan says $150,000 is being offered to support five research projects that will involve the use of Dalhousie University's Aquatron -- one of Canada's largest aquatic research facilities. Source
  • World's largest sea turtle could come off 'endangered' list

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Federal ocean managers say it might be time to move the East Coast population of the world's largest turtle from the U.S.'s list of endangered animals. An arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has received a petition from a fishing group asking that the Northwest Atlantic Ocean's leatherback sea turtles be listed as "threatened," but not endangered, under the Endangered Species Act. Source
  • No increase in earthquakes during full or new moons, study suggests

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The moon may be the cause of some things that happen on Earth, but earthquakes aren't one of them, a new study suggests. There's been an ongoing debate as to whether or not more earthquakes occur when the moon's tidal forces — its pull — is strongest. Source
  • BlackBerry's 'Jarvis' scans connected, autonomous cars for software vulnerabilities

    Tech & Science CTV News
    At the Detroit motor show, BlackBerry CEO, John Chen, unveiled the firm's new cybersecurity software, Jarvis, designed to analyze the many software systems used in connected and autonomous cars to identify potential security vulnerabilities. Jarvis aims to analyze all of the complex IT systems onboard connected and autonomous vehicles with speed and reliability. Source
  • Welcome to the neighbourhood. Have you read the terms of service?

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The L-shaped parcel of land on Toronto's eastern waterfront known as Quayside isn't much to look at. There's a sprawling parking lot for dry-docked boats opposite aging post-industrial space, where Parliament Street becomes Queens Quay. To its south is one of the saddest stretches of the Martin Goodman trail, an otherwise pleasant running and biking route that spans the city east to west. Source
  • Canada's deepest cave discovered by Calgary-based expedition

    Tech & Science CBC News
    It's definitely not for the claustrophobically inclined. A Calgary-based expedition has recently documented what's believed to be Canada deepest cave just north of Fernie, B.C. Kathleen Graham and Jeremy Bruns were part of a nine-person team of volunteer explorers who made the discovery around the new year. Source
  • Tips on how to protect yourself online

    Tech & Science CTV News
    The case of an Ontario man who allegedly earned hundreds of thousands of dollars by peddling massive troves of personal information obtained on the so-called dark web is a sobering reminder of the scale of online threats Canadians face every day. Source
  • B.C. man charged in alleged 'spambot' attack on video streaming platform

    Tech & Science CTV News
    COQUITLAM, B.C. -- A British Columbia man has been charged with mischief after a U.S.-based social media platform was allegedly flooded with thousands of spam messages, effectively shutting down many of its channels. Brandan Lukus Apple of Coquitlam was charged Dec. Source