Global Warming may Cause Insects to Eat More Crops

An aerial view shows combines harvesting barley in a field of the Solgonskoye private farm outside the Siberian village of Talniki in Krasnoyarsk Region Russia

An aerial view shows combines harvesting barley in a field of the Solgonskoye private farm outside the Siberian village of Talniki in Krasnoyarsk Region Russia

The higher temperature will positively affect pests in temperate regions.

But new research is showing that climate change is expected to accelerate rates of crop loss due to the activity of another group of hungry creatures - insects.

A new study also suggests that temperate regions will be hit hardest by the insect pests in the future. Researchers estimate that crop losses from insects will rise by 10 to 25 percent with per degree of warming. This will correspond to a total crop loss worldwide of approximately 213 million tons for the three grains. The increase in the number of insects will result in losses of such crops as rice, corn and wheat, 10-25 percent, with the increase in the average temperature of the Earth's atmosphere for every degree Celsius. Second, with the exception of the tropics, warmer temperatures will increase the reproductive rates of insects. Temperate areas especially would get more attractive as they warm up. Any rise in temperature there will lead to greater insect metabolism as well as increased pest populations. Insects have an optimal temperature at which their populations grow best. Thus, the air temperature affects oxygen consumption, caloric requirements and other metabolic rates.

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According to the researchers, the warming will lead to an exponential acceleration of the metabolism of arthropods (hence, and appetite), as well as their fertility. They folded these metabolic and reproductive effects into a model of insect population dynamics, and looked at how that model changed based on different climate change scenarios.

Insect-induced maize losses could increase by nearly 40 percent in the U.S., the world's largest corn producer. This is because the insect population grows more rapidly if the temperature is not too cold or too hot. "Together, that's not good for crops". Eleven European countries will see rates of wheat loss increase by 75 percent or higher. For China, 27 million tons of rice could be lost to insects. For example, much of the world's rice is grown in the tropics.

It may be possible to lessen the impact by breeding insect-resistant crops, or perhaps politicians could stop diddling and tackle the clear and present danger that climate change poses before it's too late. But these alterations will take time and come with their own costs.

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