Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Climate change, biofuels mandate would cause corn price spikes

A study from Purdue and Stanford university researchers predicts that future climate scenarios may cause significantly greater volatility in corn prices, which would be intensified by the federal biofuels mandate.
The findings, published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, show that severely hot conditions in corn-growing regions and extreme climate events that are expected to impact supply would cause swings in corn prices. When coupled with federal mandates for biofuel production, the price volatility could increase by about 50 percent over the period from 2020-2040 as compared to recent history.

"There could be quite a substantial increase in yield volatility, and that's due to the increased frequency and intensity of the high temperatures throughout the Corn Belt," said Thomas Hertel, a Purdue distinguished professor of agricultural economics. "Closer integration of the corn and energy markets through the ethanol industry could aid in buffering these shocks, but this would not occur in the presence of a mandate."

Under current rules, the federal government requires an increasing amount of ethanol and other biofuels be produced each year and blended with gasoline. Currently 39 percent of the nation's corn crop is used for ethanol, of which about one-third returns to the food system in the form of by-products fed to livestock.

The study used a high-resolution climate model for the United States that takes into account climate history to produce 25-kilometer "snapshots" of the Midwest under projected future climate scenarios, Hertel said. Five simulations from 1950-2040 were combined to estimate future temperature extremes. Those predictions were paired with a model that uses temperature, precipitation and technology trends to predict corn yields.

The study finds that even if temperatures stay within the internationally recognized climate change target – a limit of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels – global warming is still enough to make damaging heat waves much more common over the U.S. Corn Belt.
"Severe heat is the big hammer," said Noah Diffenbaugh, assistant professor of earth sciences at Stanford University and a study co-author. "We find that even one or two degrees of global warming is likely to increase heat waves enough to cause much higher frequency of low-yield years, leading to greater volatility of corn prices."

Using Purdue's Global Trade Analysis Project model and ignoring potential adaptations, the researchers predicted U.S. corn price volatility over the 2020-2040 period as compared with the 1980-2000 period. This increase would be further exacerbated by biofuel mandates, which would result in a further 50 percent increase in price volatility, Hertel said.

Under the projection, prices would rise in years when corn yields are hurt by extremely hot days. Hertel said that ethanol plants, forced to meet the federal mandate for biofuel production, would be forced to bid up corn prices in order to meet the blend requirement, thereby exacerbating the effect of the production shortfall on livestock producers and consumers.

Hertel said the study holds all other factors constant. It's possible that plant breeding to raise the temperature threshold at which yield losses occur, increased stockholding activities by farmers and agribusinesses, shifting growing areas northward, or changes in federal regulations could moderate the projected increases in price volatility. Finally, the study assumes that the so-called "blend wall," which has played a key role in limiting increases in ethanol use in gasoline, would be relaxed as the automobile stock is modernized.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science funded Hertel and Diffenbaugh's work.

Writer: Brian Wallheimer, 765-496-2050,
Sources: Thomas Hertel, 765-494-4199,
Noah Diffenbaugh, 650-725-7510,

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson,
Agriculture News Page

Brian Wallheimer | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Belt Climate change Corn Corn Belt corn yields fuel production global warming heat waves

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>