Warming Temperatures Linked to Increased Corn Yields

Researchers at Harvard University have found that a prolonged growing season due to increased temperatures, combined with the natural cooling effects of large fields of plants, contributed greatly to improved corn yields from 1981 to 2017 in the U.S. Corn Belt. The researchers question whether technology credited with improving yields actually played as large a role as climate change. During the study period, planting dates got earlier by three days per decade, so that corn had more time to mature. At the same time, the hottest days during the Midwestern growing season have actually cooled, due to increased evaporation from large, densely planted crops. Professor Peter Huybers oberved, “In this case, changing temperatures have had a beneficial impact on agricultural production, but there is no guarantee that benefit will last as the climate continues to change. Understanding the detailed relationships between climate and crop yield is important as we move towards feeding a growing population on a changing planet.”