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Changing yields in the Central United States under climate and technological change


  • Emily Burchfield

    (Emory University)

  • Neil Matthews-Pennanen

    (Utah State University)

  • Justin Schoof

    (Southern Illinois University)

  • Christopher Lant

    (Utah State University)


This paper projects the race between technologically driven increases in crop yields and changing climatic conditions in the central USA, one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions. Using the highest, average, and lowest decadal rates of technologically driven increases in crop yields over the 1980 to 2017 period, we develop spatially explicit yield scenarios to the end of the twenty-first century under RCP4.5 and RCP8.5. We find that with static technological innovation, severe climate change will decrease yields by an average of 22.4% (26.1 bu. ac−1) for maize, 27.9% (8.83 bu. ac−1) for soybeans, and 20% (7.14 bu. ac−1) for winter wheat in the central USA; however, with even the lowest rates of technological yield growth, yields increase by an average of 25.0% (40.5 bu. ac−1) for maize and 30.2% (14.2 bu. ac−1) for soybeans. We conclude that technology has the potential to overcome the negative impacts of climate change on the yields of maize, soybeans, and winter wheat in the central USA, but if these increases are to be environmentally sustainable, technological developments must be information-intensive rather than input-intensive.

Suggested Citation

  • Emily Burchfield & Neil Matthews-Pennanen & Justin Schoof & Christopher Lant, 2020. "Changing yields in the Central United States under climate and technological change," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 159(3), pages 329-346, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:climat:v:159:y:2020:i:3:d:10.1007_s10584-019-02567-7
    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-019-02567-7

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Wang, Sun Ling & Heisey, Paul & Schimmelpfennig, David & Ball, Eldon, 2015. "Agricultural Productivity Growth in the United States: Measurement, Trends, and Drivers," Economic Research Report 207954, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
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