Climate Change Affects Crops In Previously Unknown Ways

Recent government-funded studies have discovered climate change causes some previously unknown issues that can have serious implications for human beings, including the following:

  • Rice loses vitamins in a carbon rich environment
  • Reduction in quality of grasses important for raising cattle
  • Exacerbation of allergy seasons

To say that these are important discoveries cannot be overstated, the study on rice alone could be a serious potential healthy concern to over 600 million people globally whose diet relies upon rice.

These studies have been kept under wraps after the Trump administration refused to promote them in defiance of a tradition of publicizing studies by the in-house scientists at the Department of Agriculture.

All of these studies were peer-reviewed by scientists and cleared through the non-partisan Agricultural Research Service, one of the world’s leading sources of scientific information for farmers and consumers.

The research was not concerned with the causes of global warming but focused instead on the effects of volatile weather, rising CO2 levels, and increasing temperatures.

Researchers said that apparently the Trump administration is limiting the circulation of evidence of climate change to avoid negative press coverage about their stand on the subject.

“The intent is to try to suppress a message — in this case, the increasing danger of human-caused climate change,” said Michael Mann, a leading climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University. “Who loses out? The people, who are already suffering the impacts of sea level rise and unprecedented super storms, droughts, wildfires and heat waves.”

Although climate-related studies are being published in various scientific journals they are very hard to find as the USDA posts their studies in numerous different publications.

The only climate-related studies released from the Agricultural Research Service since Trump has been in office have been two that had favorable findings for the meat industry. One of the studies suggested that producing beef had a relatively small effect on greenhouse gases. Another said that removing animal products from the diet to help the environment would likely cause nutritional issues. The agency issued a third press release about soy processing that briefly mentioned greenhouse gas emissions, noting that reducing fossil fuel use or emissions was “a personal consideration” for farmers.

Not only did the USDA withhold its own release on the important rice study they also attempted to prevent the findings from being spread by research partners. The study that was conducted for over two years featured collaboration from scientists from China, Japan, Australia, and the University of Washington, along with USDA scientists. It showed that increased levels of CO2 cause rice to lose protein, minerals, and important vitamins.

In an email to staffers dated May 7, 2018, an incredulous Jeff Hodson, a UW communications director, advised his colleagues that the USDA communications office was “adamant that there was not enough data to be able to say what the paper is saying, and that others may question the science.”

“Why the hell is the U.S., which is ostensibly the leader in science research, ignoring this?” said one USDA scientist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid the possibility of retaliation. “It’s not like we’re working on something that’s esoteric … we’re working on something that has dire consequences for the entire planet.”

The Agricultural Research Service or ARS is run by the USDA and has a budget over one billion dollars. Some of the major breakthroughs the ARS is responsible for include the mass production of penicillin used during WWII.

The agency has stringent guidelines to prevent political meddling in research projects themselves. The Trump administration, researchers say, is not directly censoring scientific findings or black-balling research on climate change. Instead, they say, officials are essentially choosing to ignore or downplay findings that don’t line up with the administration’s agenda.

Among the ARS studies that did not receive publicity from the Agriculture Department are:

A 2017 finding that climate change was likely to increase agricultural pollution and nutrient runoff in the Lower Mississippi River Delta, but that certain conservation practices, including not tilling soil and planting cover crops, would help farmers more than compensate and bring down pollutant loads regardless of the impacts of climate change.

A January 2018 finding that the Southern Plains — the agriculture-rich region that stretches from Kansas to Texas — is increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, from the crops that rely on the waning Ogallala aquifer to the cattle that graze the grasslands.

An April 2018 finding that elevated CO2 levels lead to “substantial and persistent” declines in the quality of certain prairie grasses that are important for raising cattle. The protein content in the grass drops as photosynthesis kicks into high gear due to more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — a trend that could pose health problems for the animals and cost ranchers money.

A July 2018 finding that coffee, which is already being affected by climate change, can potentially help scientists figure out how to evaluate and respond to the complex interactions between plants, pests and a changing environment. Rising CO2 in the atmosphere is projected to alter pest biology, such as by making weeds proliferate or temperatures more hospitable to damaging insects.

A March 2019 finding that increased temperature swings might already be boosting pollen to the point that it’s contributing to longer and more intense allergy seasons across the northern hemisphere.