Damaging impacts of warming moderated by migration of rainfed crops

Continued migration, however, may result in significant environmental costs

Colorado State University

Nathan Mueller, assistant professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability at Colorado State University Credit: Joe Mendoza/Colorado State University
Nathan Mueller, assistant professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability at Colorado State University Credit: Joe Mendoza/Colorado State University

Many studies seek to estimate the adverse effects of climate change on crops, but most research assumes that the geographic distribution of crops will remain unchanged in the future.

New research using 40 years of global data, led by Colorado State University, has found that exposure to rising high temperatures has been substantially moderated by the migration of rainfed corn, wheat and rice. Scientists said continued migration, however, may result in significant environmental costs.

The study, “Climate adaptation by crop migration,” is published March 6 in Nature Communications.

“There’s substantial concern about the impacts of climate change on agriculture and how we can adapt to those changes,” said Nathan Mueller, assistant professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability at CSU and a senior author on the paper.

“We often think about how farmers can adapt to shifting climate conditions by changing crop varieties or planting dates. But farmers have also been changing what crops they are growing over time, collectively leading to large-scale shifts in crop distribution. This pathway of adaptation has been underexplored.”

40 years of data from around the world

Using new, high-resolution datasets on crop areas around the world, the research team analyzed the location of crops, climate, and irrigation from 1973 to 2012. They focused on rainfed crops, since they are highly sensitive to changes in temperature and extreme weather.

“We found that on average, over these cropland areas, things are getting warmer,” said Mueller, also a researcher in the CSU College of Agricultural Sciences.

The study showed that exposure to increased high temperatures for corn, wheat and rice was much less than it would have been if the crops were positioned where they were in the 1970s.

CSU postdoctoral fellow and first author Lindsey Sloat said this does not mean there is an unlimited capacity for farmers to adapt to climate change by shifting where they grow crops.

“If you add new farmland, that comes with massive environmental consequences,” she said. “Land use change in agriculture is one of the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss, with consequences for carbon storage. We can mitigate some of the effects of climate change by increasing irrigation, but there are also environmental costs on that front.”

Researchers also found that unlike the other crops, there has been a huge expansion in the production of soybeans, and that these crops are being grown in hotter areas around the world.

Next steps

Sloat said the research team will next delve into analyzing other climate variables, moving beyond temperature to consider how changes in a harvested area can alter exposure to other extreme climate conditions.

“Since this migration has been extensive enough in the past to substantially alter exposure to climate trends, we need to think about what our agricultural landscapes are going to look like in the future as warming increases,” said Mueller.


Co-authors on the paper include Steven Davis from the University of California, Irvine; James Gerber, Deepak Ray and Paul West from the University of Minnesota; and Frances Moore from the University of California, Davis.

Link to paper: https://col.st/GPMnS

From EurekAlert!

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
March 8, 2020 10:11 pm

All right, so the damaging impacts of warming may be moderated by the migration of crops but if we continue our studies, we will surely find very expensive downsides caused by Global Warming. Please renew our grant.

Reply to  nicholas tesdorf
March 8, 2020 10:49 pm

…….and who knows? by the time our studies are completed, the planet may have began to cool!

Reply to  katio1505
March 9, 2020 2:49 am

Katio1505, but then they’d have to rerun the studies to show that a cooling planet will lead to a migration reversal.


Reply to  Bob Tisdale
March 9, 2020 3:57 am

You think the planet is going to cool below the 1990-2020 baseline in your lifetime?

Reply to  Loydo
March 9, 2020 5:39 am

“You think the planet is going to cool below the 1990-2020 baseline in your lifetime?”

Yes. There is over 20 times as much argon in our atmosphere than CO2. How can something that is 0.041% of the atmosphere be a gigantic control knob of climate?

Reply to  Loydo
March 9, 2020 7:32 am

I see Loydo is still being paid to claim that all the warming off the past was caused by CO2.

Robert W Turner
Reply to  Loydo
March 9, 2020 8:32 am


Reply to  Loydo
March 9, 2020 10:01 am

Could do. Might not. Might.

If we understood climate in any meaningful we might be able to answer. But we don’t. That’s the thing with science, it allows you to at least understand how little you know, if you are willing to be humble.

Reply to  Loydo
March 10, 2020 11:08 am

You know what drives me mad as a layperson. Is so called scientist, enlighten with a PhD using the end of the Little Ice Age as a baseline to indicated Anthropogenic Global Warming. The Earth is going to do what it has always done. We could only be so lucky to have the ability to offset, mitigate or postpone the next glaciation period which is overdue.

Joel O'Bryan
March 8, 2020 10:52 pm

The basic tenet of the Climate Scam is that all changes from a warming planet and more CO2 MUST always be presented as BAD to the broader audience of the general population.

Even the EPA’s dishonest Social Cost of Carbon only deals with costs, no benefits, of which there are most certainly with benefits with more CO2 and the use of fossil fuels to sustain a modern world and health.

The Climate Hustle can not allow any widely published benefit to a warmer planet of lower heating costs or fewer winter cold deaths, or longer growing seasons, or more land available for cultivation, or reduced water-use by plants with higher growthm (CO2), or increased rainfall due to physical chemistry of water vapor, or higher primary productivity of the oceans (CO2).
Any admission of the Major benefits of both fossil fuels and more CO2 would severely damage the 30+ year gas-lighting campaign of the climate scam.

Yes, there have been a few scientists that have tried and a few manuscripts of some benefit of more CO2 or some warming that gets published here and there. But they are quickly drowned out and likely disciplined or threatened to shut-up by the Consensus.

Curious George
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
March 9, 2020 11:53 am

So far, the only documented “damaging impacts” have been record harvests.

March 8, 2020 11:13 pm

No worries.
Now that Michael Bloomberg doesn’t have to run for President anymore, he’ll have time to teach everyone how to farm properly. We will be drowning in food.

Reply to  davidmhoffer
March 9, 2020 7:33 am

If everyone was as small as Mike, we’d only need half as much food.

katie mccready
March 8, 2020 11:28 pm

yes, to gain and remain in any area of science that requires absolute adherence to the AGW hypothesis – unfortunately means that only goofy people or just completely dishonest people work in this field – expect a whole lot more entertaining and goofy goof ball stuff to be published – What next? is no longer the question – but for how long are they seriously going to be paid for this sort of non- falsifiable crap goofy science by complete goof balls?

Mark Luhman
March 9, 2020 12:21 am

Excuse me Idiots, Corn is now being raised in my home county in northern Minnesota, it has nothing to do with “climate change” everything to do with hybrids that can mature in its short growing season. Somehow I think you as&es don’t know the difference. The corn hybrids did not bail out my brother-in-law when frost damaged his soybean crop in the around August 15 in mid 2000s, Funny that last time that happen I was a child in the sixties. How in the on Gods green earth you educated idiots tell the difference between climate and selective breeding, my guest between the two you don’t have a clue.

Mr Reynard
March 9, 2020 12:43 am
March 9, 2020 1:09 am

For the record, planting on the Great Plains of North America was one month late in both 2018 and 2019, and in 2019 there was a huge crop failure. This was serious regional cooling. Why not write about that instead – much more important – and it actually happened!

Climate warriors are always fighting imaginary problems – tilting at windmills. The better ones are seriously delusional, like Don Quixote of La Mancha, but they are few. Most are just academic scam artists, looking to finance their next project and grow their departments.


Planting has been one month late across the Great Plains of North America in both 2018 and 2019. There was a warm summer and fall in 2018 and the grain crop was good. In 2019 the ground was so wet that 40% of the huge US corn crop never got planted. Summer was cold and winter came early and there was a massive crop failure across the Great Plains. That does not sound much like warming to me.

Joe and I wrote a paper about it here.

By Allan M.R. MacRae and Joseph D’Aleo, October 27, 2019

BTW, ‘way back in 2002 I (we) predicted moderate global cooling to start by 2020-2030. Since 2013 or earlier, I’ve been predicting cooling to start closer to 2020, based on the end of very weak Solar Cycle 24. That is prediction 3.

My (our) two previous “outrageous-at-that-time” statements published in 2002 about global warming and green energy have already proved correct.

1. “Climate science does not support the theory of catastrophic human-made global warming – the alleged warming crisis does not exist.”

2. “The ultimate agenda of pro-Kyoto advocates is to eliminate fossil fuels, but this would result in a catastrophic shortfall in global energy supply – the wasteful, inefficient energy solutions proposed by Kyoto advocates simply cannot replace fossil fuels.”

March 9, 2020 5:26 am

Yep. Late snows, low soil temperatures, and heavy rains delayed planting in significant areas of the Midwest last year.

March 9, 2020 2:05 am

Funny, they worry about the effects of growing food crops in new areas on biodiversity and not about the acres being turned over to biofuels.

March 9, 2020 3:39 am

It looks like Grant Farming is unaffected by temperature changes.

Mike McMillan
Reply to  H.R.
March 9, 2020 12:57 pm


Ron Long
March 9, 2020 3:40 am

Where I live (Mendoza, Argentina) in the heart of wine production, there is high-quality wine production 300 miles south of me (Neuquen) and 300 miles north of me (San Juan and La Rioja). So, change the climate all you want, high-quality wine will come to me no matter what. People that worry about global warming and crop difficulty haven’t been to northern Canada, where there’s room for everyone and everything.

Reply to  Ron Long
March 9, 2020 5:07 am

Hi Ron,

Love your big red wines from Argentina. In the early 1990’s we started a mine further north in Jujuy – also higher up at about 14,000 ft elevation, almost halfway up Everest.

In 2002 I (we) predicted natural global cooling to start about now, at the end of SC24. I think this cooling is still highly probable – we’ll see. If cooling occurs, farming in Canada will move south, not north.

With significant cooling, the Peace River District, home to former Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley, will no longer be suitable for farming and will probably revert to ranching. Rachel was a big fan of the catastrophic global warming scam – no irony there.

As I noted above, planting was one month late in both 2018 and 2019 and there was a major failure of the harvest across the Great Plains of North America in 2019. Let’s see what 2020 brings.

I hope to be wrong about imminent moderate global cooling – we can easily manage moderate warming, but moderate cooling will bring considerable suffering to humanity and nature.

Regards, Allan

Ron Long
March 9, 2020 7:14 am

Allan, Providencia or Pirquitas? The people who have never been on the Puna of Argentina have no idea what isolation is. Glad to hear you survived. Try a Norton Reserve Malbec for a memory flash-back!

Reply to  Ron Long
March 9, 2020 9:41 pm

Hi Ron,

Our mine was the Loma Blanca sodium borate mine – it was discovered in 1982, mined for a while and then abandoned. We re-drilled it in the early 1990’s and determined that it was economic. That drilling was funded 50:50 by INCO (International Nickel) and my outfit, Canadian Occidental Petroleum. Other mines followed in the region.

The Puna is magical – I loved it. Salt lakes every colour of the palette dot the landscape, and the mountains rise high above the plain.

The Puna is truly one of the most difficult places for humanity to survive on the planet. Because of the altitude, the weather is extremely cold in winter; there is little water, no wood, no cactus, no crops except a primitive small potato, and damned little oxygen. A tiny spiky grass grows sporadically and provides grazing for vicuña, guanaco, alpaca and llama. A big ostrich-like creature called a rhea can run about 40 mph (note to file: don’t annoy them).

Before the mines came, the locals lived their much as they had for thousands of years. They were tough, hardy and pleasant – I think of them often.

Best, Allan

Tim Gorman
March 9, 2020 5:18 am

from the study: “It is important to note that while climate is a central determinant of cropland geography20, many political, demographic, and economic factors influence observed patterns, and therefore the extent of adaptation will be influenced by societal circumstances”

Economics and price are huge factors affecting the crops being grown. Here in the central US we used to have large crops of grain sorghum and sunflowers. Since the prices for corn and soybeans have gone up so much those are the only crops you see anymore. You used to see a lot of alfalfa but that has all changed over to prairie hay and brome because it is easier to put up in those huge round bales which are more efficient for storage and feeding. None of this has anything to do with temperature, just money

The study only tires to correlate average temperature and crop geography. It even admits that there are other major factors that are not considered. This would seem, to me at least, to totally invalidate the results of the study. First, crops don’t respond to “average” temperatures, they respond most strongly to the edges of the temperature envelope. Second, if you don’t consider *all* factors then you simply don’t know what the true cause/effect relationships are.

It is continually amazing to me how such studies can pass peer review. The only reason for this that I can think of is that the so-called experts doing the peer review aren’t truly subject matter experts but math and computer science experts. In other words they can judge whether the statistic analyses and computer coding works but not whether the results conform to actual reality. What a shame.

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Tim Gorman
March 9, 2020 1:07 pm

It’s easy to get a paper through peer review when your peers are as dumb as you are. That’s why they’re your “peers.”

Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
March 9, 2020 9:51 pm

Well said Michel Kelly – fine Irish humour.

BTW, what’s an Irish Seven-Course Banquet?

A six-pack of Guinness and a potato.

March 9, 2020 6:12 am

Spot on Mark – another taxpayer funded study by shiny bums not worth a pinch of goat droppings.I am pretty sure that farmers grow whatever makes them a decent profit. Inigo Jones gives better forecasts than our climate change experts.

Neil Jordan
March 9, 2020 7:19 am

“Climate adaptation by crop migration,”. Crops migrate? Ents?

Reply to  Neil Jordan
March 9, 2020 12:47 pm

So Neil Jordan, you are half correct here. It turns out that those crops which have migrated did so to get away from all those slow prolonged talking jags that the Ents get going. It may not be so much as what the Ents are ent-ing on about as the tonal component. Apparently the Ent tones override the sounds of bugs & birds that crops interact with thus complicating productivity. Therefore some crops have just migrated far enough to where the Ents’ tonal frequency is less intense.

March 9, 2020 7:28 am

The Second Paragraph contends that Maximum High Temperatures are rising.

Raw USHCN Temperature Data shows a steady decline the last century:
comment image

The high resolution thermometer data required to show these trends DOES NOT EXIST for over 90% of the Globe. And proxy data CANNOT determine daily high temperatures AT ALL…and no temperatures at the resolutions required to make any claims about trends in High Temperatures.

Of course the DOCTORED DATA, which includes temperature data for hundreds of stations THAT NO LONGER EXIST, shows the complete opposite:
comment image.

Tony Heller has a nice YouTube video that falsifies the adjustments: https://youtu.be/hElTSfQEdsk

Robert W Turner
March 9, 2020 8:35 am

Climate academia is what happens when you throw a bunch of money to C-rate science wannabees that have no repercussions for being wrong.

Reply to  Robert W Turner
March 9, 2020 7:34 pm

At least these people are not doing psychology and sociology.

(Well, except those who do these things too…)

March 9, 2020 9:59 am

Oh Lord. Crops really don’t care if “on average” anything has changed. You actually have to look at what has changed, where and when (during a year) and by how much and when (was the warming constant?)

Otherwise you might as well use stock market growth or football scores.

Utterly meaningless bit of desktop nonsense. Just not science.

Robert of Texas
March 9, 2020 9:59 am

“We must manage all crop planting from a centralized government planning office so that everyone plants only what we say and as much as we say on only the land we set aside for this!”

Hmm, this sounds vaguely familiar… Enforced centralized planning of crops… Hmm… I wonder if this approach was ever tried, or if it worked in the past. Too bad no one knows their history anymore. I bet there is a lesson here somewhere.

sky king
March 9, 2020 3:48 pm

People with “Sustainability” in their title need to be out-placed to productive employment like coal mining or shale drilling. What a fraud!

%d bloggers like this:
Verified by MonsterInsights