Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Environment and Society

Committee Chair(s)

Christopher Lant


Christopher Lant


Emily Burchfield


Justin Schoof


Climate change is one of the great challenges facing agriculture in the 21st century. The goal of this study was to produce projections of crop yields for the central United States in the 2030s, 2060s, and 2090s based on the relationship between weather and yield from historical crop yields from 1980 to 2010. These projections were made across 16 states in the US, from Louisiana in the south to Minnesota in the north. They include projections for maize, soybeans, cotton, spring wheat, and winter wheat.

Simulated weather variables based on three climate scenarios were used to project future crop yields. In addition, factors of soil characteristics, topography, and fertilizer application were used in the crop production models. Two technology scenarios were used: one simulating a future in which crop technology continues to improve and the other a future in which crop technology remains similar to where it is today.

Results showed future crop yields to be responsive to both the different climate scenarios and the different technology scenarios. The effects of a changing climate regime on crop yields varied both geographically throughout the study area and from crop to crop. One broad geographic trend was greater potential for crop yield losses in the south and greater potential for gains in the north.

Whether or not new technologies enable crop yields to continue to increase as the climate becomes less favorable is a major factor in agricultural production in the coming century. Results of this study indicate the degree to which society relies on these new technologies will be largely dependent on the degree of the warming that occurs.

Continued research into the potential negative impacts of climate change on the current crop system in the United States is needed to mitigate the widespread losses in crop productivity that could result. In addition to study of negative impacts, study should be undertaken with an interest to determine any potential new opportunities for crop development with the onset of higher temperatures as a result of climate change. Studies like this one with a broad geographic range should be complemented by studies of narrower scope that can manipulate climatic variables under controlled conditions. Investment into these types of agricultural studies will give the agricultural sector in the United States greater tools with which they can mitigate the disruptive effects of a changing climate.



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