Corn field under a blue sky.
Corn is the most widely produced crop in the world, used in many different ways and traded on international markets.

New research led by the University of Washington looks at what climate change will mean for global yields of corn, or maize — the most widely grown crop in the world. Used in food, cooking oil, industrialized foods, livestock feed and even automobile fuel, the crop is one that all people, rich and poor, reply upon.

Published June 11 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the results show that warmer temperatures by the end of this century will reduce yields throughout the world, confirming previous research. But the study also shows dramatic increases in the variability of corn yields from one year to the next and the likelihood of simultaneous low yields across multiple high-producing regions, which could lead to price hikes and global shortages.

“Previous studies have often focused on just climate and plants, but here we look at climate, food and international markets,” said lead author Michelle Tigchelaar, a UW postdoctoral researcher in atmospheric sciences. “We find that as the planet warms, it becomes more likely for different countries to simultaneously experience major crop losses, which has big implications for food prices and food security.”

Read more at UW Today »