If climate change remains on its current course (read: hotter), will there be implications on crop acres and yields? USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) thinks so. The agency spells out what changes could be afoot in a new report, “Climate Change, Water Scarcity and Adaptation.” 

Corn, soybeans, rice, sorghum, cotton, oats and silage might see lower projected yields versus no climate change, according to the report. But wheat, hay and barley could expect to see higher projected yields. Factor in shifts in irrigation profitability, precipitation patterns and other factors, and USDA-ERS is predicting a different farming landscape by 2080.

Will technology such as drought-tolerant crops come to the rescue? USDA-ERS isn’t counting out the possibility. “[Research] suggests a greater understanding of the relationship between temperature and yield and development of crop varieties whose yields are more robust to temperature stress, particularly during growth and grain-filling periods, may be critical to building resilience to climate change.”

USDA-ERS recommends developing forecasting and decision-making tools, such as temperature and precipitation predictions, to help farmers time in-season management better. Practices that improve soil moisture and retention, such as cover crops, and mitigation of production risks through insurance programs and other financial strategies will be beneficial as well.