Monday, March 07, 2016

Climate Change Threatens Staple Crops in Africa, Study Says

Without emissions cuts, much of sub-Saharan Africa will become unsuitable for growing key crops during this century, a new study suggests.

Up to 60% of areas that currently grow beans, and up to 30% of areas that grow maize and bananas could no longer be suitable in a warmer climate.  Fundamental changes to farming may be needed in the coming decades to maintain food security, the researchers say.

Staple crops
Last week, Carbon Brief reported on how climate change could slow progress towards curbing malnutrition across the world.  That research warned rising temperatures could affect availability of fruit, vegetables and staple crops.

In today’s study, just published in Nature Climate Change, another group of scientists looks at how climate change could make areas of sub-Saharan Africa unsuitable for growing similarly important crops.

The researchers picked nine major crops that make up around half of all the food grown in Africa. Using crop models, they simulated whether those fruits, vegetables and cereals could still be grown as the climate is predicted to change during this century.

Their results suggest that if carbon emissions aren’t cut, large swathes of Africa will be unviable for growing such key crops as maize, beans and bananas.

Unsuitable climate
Maps showing when the climate becomes unsuitable for growing nine key crops in more than 10 out of 20 years, under a high emissions scenario (RCP8.5). The shading indicates when adaptation is required – from the the next two decades (red) to the latter part of the 21st century (green), or not at all in the 21st century (grey). [Credit: Rippke et al. (2016)] Click to Enlarge.
The maps [left] show estimates of when and where the climate is expected to become unsuitable for growing each of the nine crops.

An area is deemed unsuitable once its climate has changed so much that the crop fails to grow in 10 out of 20 years.  It’s essentially the point at which adaptation would be required in order for farmers to keep producing that particular food.

Read more at Climate Change Threatens Staple Crops in Africa, Study Says

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