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Some heat-loving crop plants such as melons, sweet potatoes, and okra also respond positively to increasing temperatures and longer growing seasons; but many other crops, including grains and soybeans, are negatively affected, both in vegetative growth and seed production, by even small increases in temperature (Figure 10.1). Many important grain crops tend to have lower yields when summer temperatures increase, primarily because heat accelerates the plant’s developmental cycle and reduces the duration of the grain-filling period (CCSP, 2008b; Rosenzweig and Hillel, 1998). In some crop plants, pollination, kernel set, and seed size, among other variables, are harmed by extreme heat (CCSP, 2008b; Wolfe et al., 2008). Studies also indicate that some crops such as fruit and nut trees are sensitive to changes in seasonality, reduced cold periods, and heat waves (Baldocchi and Wong, 2008; CCSP, 2008e; Luedeling et al., 2009).


Most assessments conclude that climate change will increase productivity of some crops in some regions, especially northern regions, while reducing production in others (CCSP, 2008b; Reilly et al., 2003), an expected result given the range of projected climate changes and diversity of food crops around the world. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests, with medium confidence, that moderate warming (1.8°F to 5.4°F [1°C to 3°C]) and associated increases in CO2 and changes in precipitation would benefit crop and pasture lands in middle to high latitudes but decrease yields in seasonally dry and low-latitude areas (Easterling et al., 2007). This response to intermediate temperature increases would generate a situation of midlatitude “winners” in developed countries and low-latitude “losers” in developing coun-

FIGURE 10.1 Growth rates (green) and reproductive response (purple) versus temperature for corn (left) and soybean (right). The curves show that there is a temperature range (colored bars) within which the plants can optimally grow and reproduce, and that growth and reproduction are less efficient at temperatures above this range. The curves also show that, above a certain temperature, the plants cannot reproduce. SOURCE: USGCRP (2009a).

FIGURE 10.1 Growth rates (green) and reproductive response (purple) versus temperature for corn (left) and soybean (right). The curves show that there is a temperature range (colored bars) within which the plants can optimally grow and reproduce, and that growth and reproduction are less efficient at temperatures above this range. The curves also show that, above a certain temperature, the plants cannot reproduce. SOURCE: USGCRP (2009a).



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