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NEWS UPDATES 11 August 2010

Global warming appears to threaten rice crops

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Research conducted by a team of primarily U.S.-based scientists indicates that global warming is cutting rice yields in many parts of Asia by 10 percent to 20 percent over the last 25 years in Thailand, Vietnam, India and China.

"We found that as the daily minimum temperature increases, or as nights get hotter, rice yields drop," said Jarrod Welch, lead author of the report and graduate student of economics at the University of California, San Diego.

The data was conducted in real-world situations in farmers' fields, the researchers said. Around three billion people eat rice every day, and more than 60 percent of the world's one billion poorest and undernourished people who live in Asia depend on rice as their staple food.

A decline in rice production will mean more people will slip into poverty and hunger, the researchers agreed "Up to a point, higher day-time temperatures can increase rice yield, but future yield losses caused by higher night-time temperatures will likely outweigh any such gains because temperatures are rising faster at night,

and if daytime temperatures get too high, they too start to restrict rice yields, causing an additional loss in production," Welch said. "If we cannot change our rice production methods or develop new rice strains that can withstand higher temperatures,

there will be a loss in rice production over the next few decades as days and nights get hotter. This will get increasingly worse as temperatures rise further towards the middle of the century," he added.

In addition to Welch, other members of the research team are Professors Jeffrey Vincent of Duke University and Maximilian Auffhammer of the University of California,

Berkeley; Ms. Piedad Moya and Achim Dobermann, Ph.D, of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI); and David Dawe, Ph.D., of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

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