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One Shocking Chart That Has Farmers Trembling With Fear 

One Shocking Chart That Has Farmers Trembling With Fear 

Readers know by now that the Western US is facing one of the most severe droughts in years. We’ve documented (read here & here) this spring of a “megadrought” sweeping across states like California and Nevada as risks of a second Dust Bowl increase by the day.

But in this note, let’s dive deeper into the drought and how it’s impacting farmers and the potential consequences it could have on crops. Meteorologists at BAMWX have published data on surface soil moisture over 20 years. Surface soil moisture is the water that is in the upper 4 inches and available for various types of plants. They found that the 2021 moisture deficit for early June is the worst it has ever been in two decades.

BAMWX’s Vince Bryan says the moisture deficit in the soil is “a concern” as it may impact plant development. Soil moisture plays a crucial role in agricultural monitoring, drought and flood forecasting, forest fire prediction, and water supply management.

Soil moisture observations can alert of impending drought, such as what’s been underway in the Western US this year.

What this means is that soil moisture deficits can dry crops and make them more vulnerable to pests. Even short-term drought can cause damage to crops, mainly during critical stages of crop development, such as after planting or during flowering.

If the drought persists, crop yields could come underestimates this year and result in elevated agricultural prices.

Weather extremes slash cereal yields

Weather extremes slash cereal yields

Harvesting wheat near Blyth in the mid north of South Australia. 1986.

Wheat and other cereal crops in developed countries such as Australia have been decimated. Image: CSIRO via Wikimedia Commons

Increasing intensity of heat and drought as a result of global warming may have caused worldwide cereal harvests to be cut by up to a tenth since the mid-1960s.

LONDON, 8 January, 2016 – Climate change may have already begun to take its toll of agriculture. New research suggests that drought and extreme heat in the last 50 years have reduced cereal production by up to 10%. And, for once, developed nations may have sustained greater losses than developing nations.

Researchers have been warning for years that global warming as a consequence of rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – in turn, a pay-off from increased fossil fuel combustion – will result in a greater frequency or intensity in extremes of weather.

They have also warned more recently that weather-related extremes could damage food security in EuropeAfrica and India.

Global cost

But a study in Nature journal by Navin Ramankutty, professor in global food security and sustainability at the University of British Columbia in Canada, and colleagues is perhaps the first to identify the global cost of weather-related disasters in the last half of the 20th century.

The researchers looked at 2,800 extreme hydro-meteorological disasters – floods, droughts and extremes of heat and cold – reported between 1964 and 2007 from 177 countries, and matched the data with production figures for 16 cereal crops.

They could detect no significant influence from floods or ice storms, but they found that drought and extreme heat reduced average national cereal production by between 9% and 10%.

Drought reduced both cereal yield and the area under harvest, while heat mainly affected  yield. This is likely to be a consequence of different timescales: droughts can last for years, but heatwaves tend to be counted in no more than weeks.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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