Climate change could decrease the yield of some crops in California by up to 40 percent by 2050. That's a big deal for farmers in the state, which provides about two-thirds of the nation's produce.
California farmers grow more than 400 commodity crops. Tapan Pathak, a University of California Cooperative Extension specialist based in California's Central Valley, and his research team analyzed 89 studies on climate change and discovered that warming temperatures may alter where crops grow across the state. Their findings were published in the journal Agronomy.
"In order to make California agriculture more sustainable, we have to act now," Pathak says.
As the climate continues to change and drought and heat waves become more frequent, Pathak says the challenges agriculture will face are going to intensify. He's referring to things like how the lack of cold temperatures will impact trees that need a certain number of chill-hours, or sleep each year, as well as increased impacts from pests and diseases.
"That could adversely impact yields and production for some highly valued crops in California," Pathak says. The study reports "several fruit and nut crops are losing yield and decreasing in acreage . . . as a direct consequence of increased winter and nighttime temperatures."