- Category: Politics
10 Aug 2012
- Published on Friday, 10 August 2012 11:25
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Rising temperatures have played a role in the recent increases of food prices, and all-time highs in prices are seen in the coming weeks due to crop damage, according to a report from Earth Policy Institute.
Record high temperatures were seen to have caused the reductions, with the first half of 2012 being the hottest on record nationwide. Timing and distribution of rainfall also contributed – the summer of 2012 was one of below normal rainfall in the Corn Belt, especially the central and eastern parts.
The combination of the two led to the rapid spread of drought, and in May and early June, the drought was concentrated in the southwestern United States. Later the dryness expanded into the Midwest and the Upper Great Plains until, by the end of July, drought covered 63 percent of the country – the most extensive in half a century.
“As a rule, as the temperature rises to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, photosynthesis increases. From 68 to 95 degrees it remains steady,” Mr. Brown said, with regards to the plants’ suffering in higher temperatures. “Beyond this it declines fast. At 104 degrees, photosynthesis ceases entirely. At such elevated temperatures, plants go into thermal shock.”
Pollination is also affected – the tassel at the top of a corn plant releases pollen, which must fall on each strand of silk coming out of the ear of corn and travel to the kernel site, where fertilization occurs. If it is too hot, the silk will turn brown and dry out, leaving the pollen with no chance of reaching its destination.
Prices of corn – an essential component of other food products – exceeded $8 per bushel in the United States on July 19th, with the prices of soybean also seen to increase. The report claims that the U.S. Department of Agriculture overestimated the harvest, as farmers planted a record 96 million acres of corn in the spring, making the projection of having the largest corn harvest in history.
“The U.S.D.A. projected the U.S. harvest would hit a record 376 million tons. But the drought conditions that had initially been confined to the country’s southwest began to spread and intensify,” said Lester Brown, the report’s author. “In its next monthly report on July 11th, the USDA reduced its projection to 329 million tons of corn, down by 12 percent or 47 million tons. This was a huge drop in only one month. Yet in the end the actual decline may be closer to 30 percent, or roughly 100 million tons—double the USDA estimated drop.”
The overestimation would then lead to underestimating the rise in food prices, putting still more upward pressure on food prices, the report added. – EcoSeed Staff