New research has found that EU crop losses driven by heat waves and drought, as well as other extreme weather events, have tripled in 50 years, a startling figure which could upend food-chain supply dynamics around the globe.
The study examined agricultural production in 28 European countries (including the UK) from 1961 to 2018 and compared it with the prevalence of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, heat waves and cold snaps alike, all four of which increased in frequency over the study period.
The researchers found crop losses of 2.2% of total crop yield between 1964 and 1990, which surged to some 7.3% in the period between 1991 and 2015.
To make matters worse, droughts were found to be intensifying and occurring more frequently, a phenomenon which previous studies have identified as a result of shifts in the jet stream.
While study authors acknowledge that European crop yields increased by some 150% in the periods between 1964 and 1990 and between 1991 and 2015 respectively, they found that certain more essential crops like cereal crops were hit harder than others, with potential disastrous knock-on effects.
Cereals, which make up roughly 65% of the EU’s agricultural land and are used to feed the bloc’s livestock, were the most severely affected by recurring and intensifying droughts, with losses increasing by over 3% in each drought year.
The authors warned of the potential “ripple effects” from drought and heatwave-induced crop losses which could endanger food systems in Europe and the wider world, possibly triggering global price spikes.
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