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New study finds extreme heat and drought have wiped 10 per cent off average national cereal crop production globally

Clint Jasper, Friday January 8, 2016 - 11:35 EDT
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British and Canadian researchers have analysed the impact of extreme weather on global crop production. - ABC

British and Canadian researchers have estimated each time extreme weather events like drought and heatwaves hit a country, it loses around 10 per cent of cereal crop production.

, the researchers examined 2,800 extreme weather events, between 1964 and 2007 in 177 countries, finding that compared to droughts and extreme heat, damage caused by floods and frosts was negligible.

They used data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and a global disaster database that compiles all reported extreme weather events to look at the way crop production responded to reported droughts, heatwaves, floods and frosts.

Their conclusion was that if a drought or extreme weather event occurred in one of the countries in the data set, on average it could expect cereal crop production would drop by between nine and 10 per cent.

The researchers split the data set in half, and found the impact of extreme weather events on crop production was more severe in the more recent 20 years.

In the intervening years from when the dataset ends, drought has gripped parts of every continent, and recently the Australian Bureau of Meteorology .

Author and University of British Columbia professor Navin Ramenkutty said the damage from heat and drought was more significant in developed countries, because they tended to grow large monoculture crops and were more likely to receive financial support when adverse weather strikes.

"In developed countries farmers choose varieties that will offer the highest yields, and take the risk of bad weather hitting," Professor Ramenkutty said.

"But yields in developing countries are affected by many different factors, pests and diseases for example, and so an extreme weather shock doesn't show up as strongly in the data."

The researchers hope their study can be built upon to help authorities better prepare for future extreme weather events.


© ABC 2016

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