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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Climate change forecasts can predict crop failures

Scientists have discovered that climate data can help predict some crop failures several months before harvest.(PhotoFlickr.comparker Knight)

The new findings could allow farmers in poor countries to receive better harvest in years with food growing conditions and build resiliency for the other years

In what may be a new tool for farmers across the world especially those who grow wheat and rice, researchers have now found out a way to predict crop failures.
According to a new study, published in Nature Climate Change, climate data can help predict some crop failures several months before harvest.  
The scientists wanted to examine the reliability and timeliness of crop failure forecasts in order for governments, insurers and others to plan accordingly.
Scientist found that in about one third of global cropland, temperature and soil moisture have strong relationships to the yield of wheat and rice at harvest.
“You can estimate yields according to the climatic conditions several months before,” said Molly Brown, one of the researchers.
The research team led by Toshichika Lizumi with the National Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences, Japan, created and tested a new crop model, incorporating temperature and precipitation forecasts and satellite observations from 1983 to 2006.
The team studied four crops- corn, soybeans, wheat and rice, but the model proved most useful for wheat and rice.
According to a press release, the team examined how well those data predicted the crop yield or crop failure that actually occurred at the end of each season.
“By looking at the temperature and soil moisture in June of a given year, they were hoping to predict the success of a corn harvest in August and September,” states the press release.
For example, if satellite data and climate models forecast a good season for rice before seeds are even planted, farmers or communities to get loans to invest in technologies to take advantage of the good weather, while insurers could keep insurance premiums low.
Likewise, if the forecasts call for a poor growing season, the loans would be smaller and insurance premiums larger.
According to experts, it could work as both a social safety net for agricultural communities as well as encourage communities and governments to invest in the infrastructure needed to take advantage of those good years.

“This paper is an initial step in a much larger effort to allow farmers in poor countries to get better harvests in years with good growing conditions, and build resiliency for the other years,” said Molly Brown.

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