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Basic Foods May be Lost
2004 07 06

Global warming affects the kinds of foods that can be grown in different areas and scientists worry that the staple foods of specific parts of the world, such as corn in South America, wheat in the West and rice in Asia, may no longer be able to be grown in the areas that rely on them.

Already, warmer nighttime temperatures have led to a drop in crop yield at the International Rice Research Institute Farm in the Philippines. A 17-year study in the U.S. showed that increases in temperature resulted in reductions in corn and soybean yields.

Soil expert Tim L. Setter says higher nighttime temperatures affect plants when they flower and get ready to form seeds, which "would decrease the number of kernels that would be set." A recent study in corn shows that the number of kernels in ears of corn decreased when researchers experimentally increased the night temperatures.

Wheat is being affected as well. Montana farmers expect to harvest less wheat this year due to drought caused by global warming. A recent report says that the planted area for all wheat in the United States is estimated at 59.9 million acres, down from 61.7 million acres in 2003. Harvested acreage is expected to reach 50.7 million acres, also down slightly, from about 52.8 million acres

Researcher Kenneth G. Cassman says, "If you think about it, world records for the marathon occur at cooler temperatures because it takes much more energy to maintain yourself when running at high temperatures. A similar phenomenon occurs with plants."

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