Can you remember ever feeling the sun blazing down on your head so fiercely it felt like you might melt? How do you think plants cope with this heat?
Scientists have previously thought that high air temperatures are limiting corn yields (see glossary). They predict that as temperatures rise, this will cause significant losses. But are they right? To answer this, we looked at irrigated corn yield data from three states in the western US Corn Belt. We found that the genetics of the crop and the crop management techniques explained differences in yield more than climate. These factors really changed the corn’s response to the temperature.
Our findings can help farmers adapt to rising temperatures. Studies predict that by the year 2050, demand for corn will grow by 50% in the developing world and that the average global temperature will increase by roughly 2°C at this time.