THE MIDWEST'S FARMS FACE AN INTENSE, CROP-KILLING FUTURE

WIRED | 6/18/2019 | Sara Harrison
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The flooding that devastated the Midwest this spring damaged infrastructure and prevented farmers from getting crops planted on time. Though scientists can’t say if one storm or one wet season is the result of climate change, so far this year’s heavy rains are a perfect illustration of what scientific models of climate change predict for the region. And it’s only going to get more intense.

Those models warn that it’s going to get hotter, and that rain will continue to arrive in increasingly intense spring bursts, leaving long dry patches in the summer. “We’re fighting it at both ends in the Midwest right now. Too much too early and not enough late,” says Evan DeLucia, a professor of plant biology at the University of Illinois.

Summer - Midwest - Conditions - California - Greece

During the summer, the Midwest will see drought conditions similar to what California, Greece, or Italy have. A mediterranean climate seems nice, as a concept: temperate winters and warm, dry summers, guaranteed to get you an even tan. But, according to a report that DeLucia coauthored appearing in the journal Ecosphere today, if you’re a farmer trying to grow corn it means something very different: You need more water. Because the warmer the air is, the more water plants require.

It boils down to basic plant biology. Water works its way up a plant from root, to stem, to leaf. Because water molecules are attracted to one another, they stick together, creating a continuous thread throughout the plant, with each water molecule essentially holding hands with its neighbors. Once the water reaches the leaf, it evaporates, pulling more water up from the ground. This process is called transpiration and it speeds up when temperatures rise. In fact, this cycle is already hastening. “For every fraction that we warm the atmosphere, we’re going to get a little more water...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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