EDF report predicts drop in yield due to climate change

AMES — A new report from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) tries to predict how climate change will affect Midwest crop yields in the next decade and beyond.

EDF lead senior scientist Eileen McLellan says the report finds climate change will bring corn yields down more than 5% across all Iowa counties. “There’s no question that things are going to get much, much, much worse by 2050. But some of the adaptations, like shifting to a different crop, are going to take quite a few years to implement,” she says. 

The report’s climate models predict that by 2030, Iowa will see more warm days that are good for corn growth, but will see even more days of extreme heat that will stunt yields.

Iowa State University emeritus professor of agronomy Gene Takle says Iowa has had few heat waves compared to other parts of the country and the world. But the state has seen increasing rain. “The takeaway is, yes, there’s going to be some yield declines from the trend line. But because we’re starting at a more favorable condition, it’s not going to be as critical as it might be in some other parts of the world,” Takle says. 

McLellan says farmers will have to scale up their climate-friendly practices after 2030 as climate change becomes more dramatic.