European grain yield stagnation related to climate change, says Moore
The European Union led the world in wheat production and exports in 2014-15. Yet Europe is also the region where productivity has slowed the most. Yields of major crops have not increased as much as would be expected over the past 20 years, based on past productivity increases and innovations in agriculture.
Finding the causes of that stagnation is key to understanding the trajectory of the global food supply.
Logically, it would seem that climate change would affect crops. But in the overall picture of agriculture, it's hard to figure out how much. European farming is a complex venture, and other possible stagnating factors include changes in government policy. For example, farm subsidies are no longer based on productivity and the use of fertilizer is now controlled to reduce runoff into water supplies. Ongoing positive factors include improvements in farm management practices and advances in crop genetics.
Historically, scientists relied on models to estimate the effects of climate change. Now Stanford's Frances C. Moore has for the first time statistically quantified the relative importance of climate in the stagnation of European crops. She found that warming and precipitation trends are affecting European grain harvests. Moore is a PhD candidate in the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources.