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Agriculture: Climate change may take a bite out of global banana yields

Nature Climate Change

September 3, 2019

Global warming has increased banana yields since the 1960s, but this trend could reverse in the coming decades, suggests a study published in Nature Climate Change. Identifying which banana-growing countries will lose the most from warming is important because the crop plays a major role in global trade and food security.

Dessert bananas - those that are typically consumed raw, and are distinct from plantains and other cooking varieties - are among the most important crops around the world. They are a staple food and major export commodity for many tropical nations. However, determining how growing conditions for dessert bananas are affected by climate change is difficult, as country-level data on banana yields is sparse.

Varun Varma and Daniel Bebber compiled yield data from 27 countries, and calculated the annual temperature and rainfall conditions for producing optimal banana yields. They estimate that temperature changes since the 1960s have improved growing conditions for 21 of these countries and have increased yields at an average of 1.37 tonnes per hectare. The authors predict that, by 2050, most of these positive effects will slow and, in some cases, reverse. Countries like Brazil, the world’s fourth largest producer of bananas, and Colombia, a major exporter, may incur the biggest losses. Conversely, banana crops in Africa, Ecuador and Honduras are likely to benefit the most from future temperature changes.

doi: 10.1038/s41558-019-0559-9

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