Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
The growing season used to be too short to grow corn in Alberta. That’s no longer true, according to a front page story in the November 26 Wall Street Journal: “Warming Climate Pushes Corn North.” Thanks to climate change, a warming planet means longer growing seasons, making it practical for Canadian farmers to raise corn. In the little town of La Crete, Alberta (“roughly as far north as Juneau, Alaska”) temperatures “are 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer on average annually than in 1950…and the growing season is nearly two weeks longer.”
The Journal continues:
Canada’s corn acreage has climbed 20% over the past decade, while soybean acreage has roughly doubled… Before 2013, provinces such as Saskatchewan and Alberta grew no significant amounts of soybeans…. Now soybeans cover 425,000 acres in those provinces.
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“Today, the U.S. corn belt is in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana,” Cargill CEO David MacLennan said in a 2016 interview. “In 50 years, it may be in Hudson Bay, Canada.”
As for regions where corn has traditionally been grown, they’re seeing bigger harvests. “Warming has helped increase U.S. corn harvests, delivering more than one-quarter of the yield growth across Corn Belt states since 1981….”
All this is great news, right? Yet there is a down side. To its credit, the Journal admits that bigger harvests may be harder to sustain as temperatures increase further, and climate shifts already are working against yields in some corn-producing regions…. Overall, climate change-driven heat, droughts and soil erosion will likely diminish U.S. agricultural production, according to the latest installment of the U.S. National Climate Assessment, issued Friday [Nov. 23]” (my italics).
At Jake Vermeer’s farm southeast of Edmonton, Alberta, the growing season is now 17 days longer. However, warmer temperatures also bring “unusually long dry spells and harsher storms” which make farming “more uncertain.”
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