Climate models can help predict some crop failures several months before harvest, according to a new study.
“You can estimate ultimate yields according to the climatic condition several months before,” said Dr Molly Brown from NASA’s Goddard Flight Center, a co-author of the research. “From the spring conditions, the pre-existing conditions, the pattern is set.”
The team studied four crops – corn, soybeans, wheat and rice – but the model proved most useful for wheat and rice. Crop failures in regions of some major wheat and rice exporters, such as Australia and Uruguay, could be predicted several months in advance, according to the study.
The research could encourage communities and governments to invest in the infrastructure needed to take advantage of favourable years.
For example, if satellite data and climate models forecast a good season for rice before seeds are even planted, farmers or communities could get loans to invest in technologies to take advantage of the good weather, while insurers could keep insurance premiums low.
Professor Andy Challinor is available for interview. Please contact Sarah Reed, Press Officer, University of Leeds, on 0113 34 34196 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The full paper by Toshichika Iizumi et al, Prediction of seasonal climate-induced variations in global food production Nature Climate Change (2013) is available to download