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The Evolution of Heat Tolerance of Corn

The Evolution of Heat Tolerance of Corn

Implications for Climate Change

(p.225) 8 The Evolution of Heat Tolerance of Corn
The Economics of Climate Change
Michael J. RobertsWolfram Schlenker
University of Chicago Press

This chapter analyzes the technological change in seed types in response to climatic shocks. New evidence on the relationship between weather and corn yields by assembling data from 1901 to 2005 for Indiana, a major corn producing state, on yields, the daily temperature range between minimum and maximum temperature and precipitation are looked upon. Crop sensitivity to extremes in temperature and precipitation evolved over time as new seed varieties, supple mental irrigation, and new production and management techniques were introduced. The evolution of tolerance for excessive heat has been less successful than that for swings in precipitation. Improvements in heat tolerance have been nonlinear, growing with the introduction of new double-cross hybrids in the 1940s and 1950s, peaking in 1960, and then declining after the introduction of single-cross hybrid corn. The key question is whether the next seed innovation cycle can bring both increases in average yields and heat tolerance. There may be little scope for response to higher temperatures while maintaining yields in areas where corn is currently grown as all climate models predict significant increases in extreme heat in these areas.

Keywords:   corn, climate change, crop sensitivity, precipitation, double-cross hybrids, corn yields, heat tolerance

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