Poring over three decades of agricultural records, Christopher Kucharik, an associate scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, discovered that farmers in 12 U.S. states now put corn in the ground around two weeks earlier than they did during the late 1970s. His findings appear in the current issue of the Agronomy Journal.
Earlier plantings-which mean longer growing seasons--have likely contributed to the increasing corn yields of recent decades. But Kucharik, a terrestrial ecologist at the UW-Madison's Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment, warns the trend can only continue for so long.
"Earlier plantings really can't continue forever because ultimately, farmers will have to contend with wintertime conditions and frozen soils," says Kucharik. "Several decades from now we might see an unexpected drop in annual yield increases when this trend plateaus, which could then increase the threat to our food supply."
The Corn Belt is a major agricultural region of the U.S. Midwest, where corn is a dominant crop. Centered in Iowa and Illinois, the belt extends into Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.
Kucharik had initially set out to explore the wider influence of climate change on agricultural yields. But as he began to work with census data maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he accidentally noticed that over the decades, farmers have been planting most of their corn crops earlier and earlier in the year.
At first, he speculated that the pattern was simply a result of earlier springtime temperatures brought on by global warming. But on probing the last 30 years of the climate record, Kucharik found little proof that warmer weather motivated the early plantings.
"There is very weak or little to no correlation with springtime temperatures over the majority of the Corn Belt and these [earlier] planting dates," Kucharik says. Rather, other factors- - such as improved land management practices and advances in biotechnology - have been far more instrumental in the decision to sow seeds earlier from year to year.
Farmers now have access to new types of seeds, for instance, that are engineered so that plants are more resistant to the colder soils of early spring. Another technologically enhanced corn seed comes with a polymer coating that only switches "on" when the soil reaches temperatures suitable for seed germination. As technology has continued to revolutionize agricultural methods, farmers have been increasingly confident to put seeds in the ground as soon as they possibly can.
But Kucharik says they should be careful, because nature's seasonal clock can only be manipulated so much. "If you start to shift a plant's development too early, it may start to get out of synch with the seasonal climate it is accustomed to," he says.
While earlier corn plantings have helped crops grow more plentiful over the years, Kucharik hopes the agricultural community will take note of the continuing trend so that future crop yields don't suddenly fall under the mark.
Christopher Kucharik | EurekAlert!
Trees and climate change: Faster growth, lighter wood
14.08.2018 | Technische Universität München
Animals and fungi enhance the performance of forests
01.08.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.
When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...
Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.
Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....
Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.
Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...
Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur
What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...
The quality of materials often depends on the manufacturing process. In casting and welding, for example, the rate at which melts solidify and the resulting microstructure of the alloy is important. With metallic foams as well, it depends on exactly how the foaming process takes place. To understand these processes fully requires fast sensing capability. The fastest 3D tomographic images to date have now been achieved at the BESSY II X-ray source operated by the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin.
Dr. Francisco Garcia-Moreno and his team have designed a turntable that rotates ultra-stably about its axis at a constant rotational speed. This really depends...
08.08.2018 | Event News
27.07.2018 | Event News
25.07.2018 | Event News
14.08.2018 | Information Technology
14.08.2018 | Life Sciences
14.08.2018 | Life Sciences