How will climate change impact grain yields?

Climate change will have little impact on the overall production of corn, soy and wheat as we push toward 2050, says Grainbot market analyst Kurt Ahrens.

Ahrens shared his crop production vision, including potential yield growth for corn, soybean and wheat crops, with about 500 delegates attending last week’s Grain World conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

To estimate yield growth, Ahrens looked at research to identify potential bottlenecks or hurdles that could derail yield growth trends that farmers have observed since the 1970s. In this interview, Ahrens tells RealAgriculture’s Bernard Tobin that he sees no biological, climate, or management barrier that would inhibit yields from continuing to grow at a significant rate.

Grainbot.com’s Kurt Ahrens says climate change will have a net positive impact on soybean and wheat yields but deliver a slight negative for corn.

When it comes to climate change, Ahrens does acknowledge that temperature increases will be a problem, but from a yield perspective, research suggests this will be offset by increases in carbon dioxide. “As we all know, plants love carbon dioxide and if we get more, the yield actually goes up.”

Ahrens suggests climate change will have a net positive impact on soybeans (6%) and wheat (1 – 2%) but deliver a slight negative for corn (-1%). He says science should continue to scale biological walls that impair yield growth, and genetic and management advances should continue to drive grain yield. Overall, for 2050, he sees wheat yields increasing 31 percent, soybeans 33 percent and corn 39 percent.

Ahrens also shares thoughts on how famers can get the best future return on higher yields, including the growing importance of storage, especially when it comes to wheat.

As we push toward 2050, “farm storage is going to out-yield farmland in terms of return on investment,” says Ahrens.

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