Staple food crop harvests could drop dramatically in a warmer climate as plants produce less wheat or rice with smaller grains, scientists from the University of Reading have found from a study involving peanuts.

Very hot temperatures during the flowering period prevent seeds from forming properly, and lead to faster growth overall which does not allow grains the time to grow.

Scientists who studied peanut varieties in India found the harvest would drop by two thirds by the year 2080 as a result of global warming, and then transposed their results onto other crops such as wheat and rice.

Dr Andy Challinor, lead author of the study, said: “Although the work so far has focused on groundnut in India, many annual crops – such as wheat, soybean and rice – have a threshold temperature above which seeds do not form properly leading to lower crop yields. This study of the peanut crop highlights a more general and important risk to food crop production world wide.”

Goska Romanowicz

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