Europe’s animal nutritionists may have to switch from its grain of choice for pig feeds – wheat – as more frequent bad weather events force the region’s farmers to grow alternative crops, according to a new study.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned that droughts, floods, storms and other disasters triggered by climate change have risen in frequency and severity over the last three decades. Its latest study shows that the result is more damage to the agricultural sectors of many developing countries, putting them at risk of growing food insecurity.
The study reveals that worldwide, between 2003 and 2013, the average annual number of disasters caused by all types of natural hazards, including climate-related events, has almost doubled since the 1980s. The total economic damage caused is estimated at US$1.5 trillion.
These effects are not only experienced in developing countries. Modeling predicts that shifting wheat production to different regions in Europe may not be possible by the end of the century, as exposure to adverse weather in European arable farming areas will increase.
In the study, a group of international scientists, including from Rothamsted Research in the United Kingdom, which is strategically funded by the British Biotechnology and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), explored the question of how climate change will alter the probability of adverse weather events in Europe by the end of the century. The study focused on wheat-producing areas and examined how wheat cultivation adaptation strategies may be affected under the predicted scenarios. The results are published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface in November 2015.
By using climate scenarios based on low- and high-sensitivity global climate models, the researchers showed that the probability of 11 adverse weather events with the potential to significantly reduce wheat yield will increase markedly across Europe. Wheat cultivation areas in particular will be exposed to significantly more incidents of high temperatures, severe droughts and field inaccessibility.
“In 2015, average global temperature increase has exceeded 1°C for the first time; this is halfway towards 2°C threshold that could result in potentially dangerous climate change,” said Dr. Mikhail Semenov of Rothamsted Research, one of the lead scientists of the study.
“It is critical that we use the best available resources to model impacts of climate change on wheat and explore adaptation strategies,” added Dr. Malcolm Hawkesford, who leads the 20:20 Wheat strategic programme of research at Rothamsted Research.. “These studies are essential to inform us with regards to the type of cultivars that will be required in the future in order to ensure that yield potential losses are avoided whilst the nutritional value of the crops cultivated is maintained and potentially further enhanced.”