What about farming?

As temperatures rise, increasingly hot and dry weather alters growing conditions in unpredictable ways. Certain crops may benefit, increasing their yield and expanding their growing areas northward.(1) However, many crops, particularly delicate fruits like grapes, will no longer thrive in their traditional regions.(2) Farmers can adapt by switching to new crops, but that brings added costs.(3)

“With increasing uncertainty about weather and future climate projections, a novel sense of uncertainty is being introduced into agriculture.”
— U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2013

“Agriculture needs to adapt to changing conditions and use farming techniques that reduce the impact of our changing climate.”

— Monsanto, 2015

“In a period of accelerated climate change, the question is whether the food systems we rely on can adapt.”

— Cargill, 2015

Hot nights, consecutive dry days and frost-free days are all projected to increase across the country, leading the USDA to project declining overall farm yields by mid-century.(4)



Additional major changes
In addition to the substantial redistribution of growing regions, rising temperatures will affect agriculture in a number of other significant ways. Some impacts are obvious, but others are quite surprising. Here are six of the most important impacts:

1. Extreme precipitation and flooding

  • Floods that saturate the ground in the spring can force farmers to put off planting.(5)
  • Flooding can damage plant roots, reducing yield.(6)
  • Heavy rainfall can cause soil erosion.(7)

2. Drought and water scarcity

  • Drought has enormous adverse effects on crop performance.
  • Drought reduces the quality of high-value fruit and vegetable crops.(8)
  • Yields for rain-dependent crops could decline or become unreliable.(9)
  • Water available for irrigation may become scarcer and more expensive.(10) Changes in timing and intensity of rain and snow will make it more difficult for farmers to deliver water to crops at the proper time.(11)
  • Higher temperatures will melt snowpack earlier in the season, reducing availability of water in the summer from streams fed by melted snow.(12)

3. Higher levels of atmospheric CO2

  • Increased CO2 in the atmosphere generally accelerates crop growth.(13) This could be considered a net benefit for crops if other adverse effects of increasing CO2 didn’t also occur.
  • Increased CO2 also fuels weed growth even more than crop growth, increasing the threat from weeds.(2)

4. More Pests

  • Many insect populations will expand, since warmer winter temperatures mean fewer insects will die over the cold winter.(14)
  • Warmer temperatures create a longer growing season that means more insect generations every year.(15)

5. Soil erosion and decreased soil quality

  • Increased extreme weather events erode soil.(2)
  • Changing temperatures and rainfall can change the makeup of soil in ways that can make it less suitable for crops.(16)

6. Less pollination

  • During the pollination period, plants are very sensitive, and high temperatures during this time can decrease crop yields.(17)
  • If pollinators such as bees respond differently to climate change than the crops they pollinate, it could result in a mismatch that also decreases crop yields.(18)

Fallout in the fields
Rising temperatures will affect different crops in different ways. Above all, climate change creates uncertainty, which is costly for farmers and consumers alike. Here are a handful of crops most vulnerable to changing growing conditions.




  1. Bloomberg: Corn Belt Shifts North
  2. Cornell University
  3. Bloomberg: California Drought Transforms Global Food Market
  4. S. Department of Agriculture: Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States
  5. Bloomberg: U.S. Midwest Floods Delay Corn Sowing After Drought Curbed Crop
  6. University of Nebraska, Lincoln
  7. Agricultural Marketing Resource Center
  8. University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  9. United States Department of Agriculture: U.S. Drought 2012
  10. University of California, Davis: Drought Impact Study
  11. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  12. University of California, San Diego
  13. NASA: Carbon Cycle
  14. Time
  15. KQED
  16. Soil Science Society of America
  17. Clemson University
  18. NASA: Will Plants and Pollinators Get Out of Sync?


  1. Growing Condition Maps – NOAA NCDC & CICS-NC
  2. Peaches – Cornell
  3. Grapes – USA Today
  4. Almonds – National Geographic
  5. Avocados – National Geographic
  6. Cherries – National Geographic
  7. Corn – The Wall Street Journal