Global Warming Could Scorch America’s Breadbasket

A new study financed by the U.S. Department of Energy finds that if global climate change continues unchecked, the United States breadbasket might someday be located in Canada. Based on research by scientists at Stanford and Purdue Universities, the findings reveal that heat waves sparked by rising global temperatures will likely decimate the American corn industry, delivering a crippling blow to the world’s food supply.

“Breadbasket” is a term used to refer to regions which contain grow most of the country’s grain crop. In America this region is also known as the Great Plains, and is concentrated in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas. Although it’s not the only grain crop grown in America’s heartland, corn has long been a staple of the breadbasket states.

US-breadbasketImage via Wikimedia Commons

If farmers don’t move their corn north within the next decade, the more frequent heat waves could lead to bigger swings in corn prices, or price volatility, which cause spikes in food prices, farmers’ incomes and the price livestock farmers and ethanol producers pay for corn.

The study, recently published in the journal Nature Climate Change, shows that climate change’s impact on corn price volatility could far outweigh the volatility caused by changing oil prices or government energy policies mandating biofuels production from corn and other crops.

Based on economic, climatic and agricultural data and computational models, the study finds that even if climate change stays within the internationally recognized target limit of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels, the temperature changes could still make damaging heat waves much more common over the U.S. corn belt.

“Severe heat is the big hammer,” said Noah Diffenbaugh, an assistant professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford’s School of Earth Sciences. “Even one or two degrees of global warming is likely to substantially increase heat waves that lead to low-yield years and more price volatility.”

When researchers took federal mandates for biofuel production into account, the picture is even more grim. Increasing heat waves will lead to low-yield years, and government-mandated corn sales to ethanol producers limit the market’s ability to buffer against low-yield years. Thankfully, citizen action pushed Congress to vote against renewing the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit–a huge subsidy for the ethanol industry–earlier this year.

Related Reading:

Scientists Warn Climate Change May Be Irreversible

Ethanol Without The Guilt? Nation’s First ‘Trashanol’ Plant Opens In Iowa

Climate Change-Linked Disasters Push Food Prices Higher

Image via Thinkstock


Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

federico bortoletto


David Fletch
David Fletch4 years ago

There a lot of scientist that jumped on the piers bandwagon and agreed, now they have egg on their face and they are defending. They now call it anthropogenic climate destabilization, instead of global warming. Might be warming, but is it natural, or do we all go back to plowing with a horse just in case? The proof does not exist.

David Fletch
David Fletch4 years ago

Gene said: Rent an Inconvenient Truth. I'll try again.

July 15, 1942 a flight of six P-38 fighters and two B-17 Bombers were headed for the UK from Maine. Unexpected head winds and faulty weather forecast caused them to burn more fuel then they needed to make it to UK. They decided to ditch all of the airplanes in one spot on the Greenland ice cap. There they were abandon and remain to this day except one P-38. The airplanes were re-discovered during ground radar mapping. Fifty years after the war, one or the P-38’s was dug out from under nearly 300 feet of solid ice and restored in the US. See:
I’m sure everyone remembers the part on Inconvenient Truth where Gore shows crashing icebergs and a map of Greenland melting and raising the sea level. According to Gores movie, the airplanes are sitting on top of the Ice instead of a football field vertically under the ice. Gore was almost successful at nationalizing the US energy industry when Cap and Tax almost passed. He would have made billions off the little people in the USA had the Republicans and a few level minded Democrats not stopped him. Rent this:

Beth K.
.4 years ago

Excellent post Gene.

To simplify it even more, regarding the cooling of the oceans when the glaciers break off and drift south.

Think what happens when you put ice cubes into a glass of warm water. As goes the oceans, so goes the earth.

Beth K.
.4 years ago

David, the correct term is anthropogenic climate destabilization, and what it does is change the climate. So not confusing at all.

David Fletch
David Fletch4 years ago

Laura said: global warming which causes the high temperatures, and ozone depletion which causes the extreme cold.

post is confusing, which is it, too hot or too cold?

Laura H.

Polluting industries all over the world have caused the global warming which causes the high temperatures, and ozone depletion which causes the extreme cold. Some life has adapted, but without the circle of life and natural habitat most will not.

Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton4 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Yulan Lawson
Yulan Lawson4 years ago

Global warming, you should see a current true real picture of Austalia at the moment, it's never been so green ALL OVER. Yes, all over, the pics you see with Australia dry in the middle are old photos taken. What global warming.