Climate change threatens future of pasta

This is from Newsweek on 10 December and I know it’s been expertly dealt with elsewhere, but it’s so questionable I can’t ignore it. From notes I made at the time, the links below start to argue with their alarming premise.

Hurricane Sandy’s recent devastation of New York and neighboring states reminded Americans of what Hurricane Katrina demonstrated in 2005: global warming makes weather more extreme, and extreme weather can be extremely dangerous. But flooding coastlines aren’t our only worry. Climate change is also imperiling the very foundation of human existence: our ability to feed ourselves.

Three grains—wheat, corn, and rice—account for most of the food humans consume. All three are already suffering from climate change, but wheat stands to fare the worst in the years ahead, for it is the grain most vulnerable to high temperatures. That spells trouble not only for pasta but also for bread, the most basic food of all. (Pasta is made from the durum variety of wheat, while bread is generally made from more common varieties, such as red spring.)

“Wheat is a cool-season crop. High temperatures are negative for its growth and quality, no doubt about it,” says Frank Manthey, a professor at North Dakota State University who advises the North Dakota Wheat Commission. Already, a mere 1 degree Fahrenheit of global temperature rise over the past 50 years has caused a 5.5 percent decline in wheat production, according to David Lobell, a professor at Stanford University’s Center on Food Security and the Environment.

via Bakken Oil Boom and Climate Change Threaten the Future of Pasta – Newsweek and The Daily Beast.

But here are production figures that contradict that story:

This prediction out to 2026 further contradicts the Newsweek claims.

Global grain harvest sets record despite extreme climatic events

Finally, this new research paper quoting the FAO two months ago blows Newsweek’s inflammatory claims out of the water. Wheat production for 2012 will be a bit reduced, but others are setting records. It explicitly excludes climatic factors from causing reduced harvests now or in the future.

The FAO expects global maize production to increase 4.1 percent from 2011, reaching an estimated 916 million tons in 2012.

Global rice production achieved an all-time high of 480 million tons in 2011, a 2.6 percent increase from 2010.

World wheat production is projected to drop to 675.1 million tons in 2012, down 3.6 percent from 2011, with the largest declines in feed and biofuel utilization.

Since 1961, grain production has increased 269 percent and grain yield has increased 157 percent, while the grain harvest area has increased only 25 percent. This is due largely to the Green Revolution and the introduction of high-yielding grain varieties.

So much for Newsweek!

Views: 338

5 Thoughts on “Climate change threatens future of pasta

  1. Richard C (NZ) on 25/12/2012 at 8:47 am said:

    “Wheat is a cool-season crop. High temperatures are negative for its growth and quality, no doubt about it,” says Frank Manthey, a professor at North Dakota State University who advises the North Dakota Wheat Commission


    I search “winter wheat threat from cold” and it turns up ‘Cold Weather Could Threaten Winter Wheat in North Dakota’ from 2007:-

    • Wheat is a cool-season crop.

      Right. So it grows through the summer when it’s warm and is harvested in the autumn as it cools?

    • Richard C (NZ) on 26/12/2012 at 5:48 pm said:

      Different varieties RT, requiring different climatic conditions and different planting times, winter and spring e.g. Hard Red Winter likes cold and dry, Soft Red Winter likes humid, Hard Red Spring likes hot and dry:-

      Types Of Wheat

      The problem with North Dakota winter wheat was prolonged cold because the plant is vulnerable at planting and just after dormancy i.e. on either side of the normal cold period. From the North Dakota article:-

      “Winter wheat is most sensitive to subfreezing temperatures just after planting and in the spring after seedlings break dormancy and start spring growth.”


      “While a properly acclimatized winter plant might be able to withstand temperatures as low as minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit in January, it probably will only be able to survive temperatures as low as 5 to 10 degrees in early April, and some varieties that are less winter-hardy may succumb at temperatures as high as 24 degrees,”


      “One advantage we have in North Dakota is that the winter wheat still is very small. Winter wheat in states farther south that is jointing is considerably more sensitive to cold injury than winter wheat in the two- to three-leaf stage that is common for most winter wheat in our state.”

  2. John Robertson on 26/12/2012 at 12:05 pm said:

    Every now and then I wish the promised warming was true, in Canada an area larger than Europe would become warm enough to grow cereal crops and the country would boom.
    From Edmonton to Great slave Lake on the North South axis and the Rocky Mountains to Hudson Bay,east to west, is black spruce and swamp, 2 degrees warming would make all the difference.
    As for wheat being a cold crop, what a maroon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post Navigation