Peculiarly pleasant weather for US maize

Ethan E. Butler, Nathaniel D. Mueller, Peter Huybers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations

Abstract

Continuation of historical trends in crop yield are critical to meeting the demands of a growing and more affluent world population. Climate change may compromise our ability to meet these demands, but estimates vary widely, highlighting the importance of understanding historical interactions between yield and climate trends. The relationship between temperature and yield is nuanced, involving differential yield outcomes to warm (9 − 29C) and hot (> 29C) temperatures and differing sensitivity across growth phases. Here, we use a crop model that resolves temperature responses according to magnitude and growth phase to show that US maize has benefited from weather shifts since 1981. Improvements are related to lengthening of the growing season and cooling of the hottest temperatures. Furthermore, current farmer cropping schedules are more beneficial in the climate of the last decade than they would have been in earlier decades, indicating statistically significant adaptation to a changing climate of 13 kg·ha−1·decade−1. All together, the better weather experienced by US maize accounts for 28% of the yield trends since 1981. Sustaining positive trends in yield depends on whether improvements in agricultural climate continue and the degree to which farmers adapt to future climates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11935-11940
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume115
Issue number47
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 20 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
E.E.B. was supported by Packard Foundation Award 2009-34709; P.H. was supported by National Science Foundation Award 1521210; and N.D.M. was supported by USDA Grant 2016-67012-25208.

Funding Information:
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. E.E.B. was supported by Packard Foundation Award 2009-34709; P.H. was supported by National Science Foundation Award 1521210; and N.D.M. was supported by USDA Grant 2016-67012-25208.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 National Academy of Sciences. All Rights Reserved.

Keywords

  • Adaptation
  • Agriculture
  • Climate
  • Maize
  • Trends

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