A meta-analysis of crop yield under climate change and adaptation

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Feeding a growing global population in a changing climate presents a significant challenge to society1,2. The projected yields of crops under a range of agricultural and climatic scenarios are needed to assess food security prospects. Previous meta-analyses3 have summarized climate change impacts and adaptive potential as a function of temperature, but have not examined uncertainty, the timing of impacts, or the quantitative effectiveness of adaptation. Here we develop a new data set of more than 1,700 published simulations to evaluate yield impacts of climate change and adaptation. Without adaptation, losses in aggregate production are expected for wheat, rice and maize in both temperate and tropical regions by 2 °C of local warming. Crop-level adaptations increase simulated yields by an average of 7–15%, with adaptations more effective for wheat and rice than maize. Yield losses are greater in magnitude for the second half of the century than for the first. Consensus on yield decreases in the second half of the century is stronger in tropical than temperate regions, yet even moderate warming may reduce temperate crop yields in many locations. Although less is known about interannual variability than mean yields, the available data indicate that increases in yield variability are likely.

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The study was financially supported by the NERC EQUIP programme http://www.equip.leeds.ac.uk and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), with the financial assistance of the European Union, Canadian International Development Agency, World Bank, New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Danida and with the technical support of IFAD. S. Hodkinson contributed to the data set. B. Parkes produced one supplementary figure.

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Author notes


  1. School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9AT, UK

    • A. J. Challinor
    • , J. Watson
    •  & D. R. Smith
  2. CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), Cali, Columbia 6713, South America

    • A. J. Challinor
  3. Stanford University, 473 Via Ortega Stanford, California 94305, USA

    • D. B. Lobell
  4. CSIRO, GPO Box 1700 Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601, Australia

    • S. M. Howden
  5. Arizona State University, Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes, PO Box 874401 Tempe, Arizona 85287-4401, USA

    • N. Chhetri


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All authors contributed to the data set, discussed the results and commented on the manuscript. J.W. analysed the data. D.R.S. and D.B.L. carried out the statistical analysis. A.C., D.L. and M.H. designed the study and wrote the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to A. J. Challinor or D. R. Smith.

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