Where Should We Grow Our Food?

The Lempert Report
November 18, 2016

A new study published in Nature Communications by researchers at the University of Birmingham looks into whether the places where we currently grow our staple crops—corn, wheat, and rice—will be able to keep growing these things into the next century.

The report finds that the eastern US, which grows much of the world’s corn and wheat, is going to be hit hard by climate changes over this century. Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, and parts of South America are also going to see falling crop yields. In the world’s northern latitudes, they report, there is actually going to be a bump in production, as hotter temperatures either increase yields or make it possible to grow crops in areas where it was previously too cold. The researchers predicted that both central Russia and Canada would see significant gains. 

However, working farms also require machinery, water, excellent pest management, and farmers with experience in both the area and the crops to run them. Building that up infrastructure in these new areas of the world will take time and of course significant resources. 

While we don’t have a stopwatch to give us a deadline to achieve these objectives it is clear that time is ticking and we must solve this issue sooner than later especially as the world’s population continues to grow. We can only hope that along with these new geographies becoming agricultural resources, that we can somehow recreate and regenerate our existing farmlands here in the US to continue to be a major global player in food production. If not, the economic impact will be as devastating to our farmers and economy as the California drought has already become for many.