Stagnation of crop yields in response to climate change

Updated:August 31, 2017 (Thursday)

-Adaptation technology is increasingly important to meet the world's food demand-

Given projected increase in global food demand, we provided an outlook on future yields of major crops. The impact of climate change (temperature rise) as well as simple countermeasures such as shifting sowing date and increase use of improved technology are taken into account in this outlook. The estimated yield increase of maize and soybean is found to be stagnated even if the global mean temperature rise in the end of this century is less than 1.8°C. On the other hand, rice and wheat yields started to stagnate when the temperature rise exceeds 3.2oC. Results suggest that it is important to develop and diffuse more aggressive adaptation technology to maintain yield increase under future climate change.


  1. The Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences, NARO in collaboration with the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Science, and the National Institute for Environmental Studies, projected the impact of climate change on yield growth of major crops (maize, rice, wheat, soybean) considering technological improvement such as increased use of nitrogen fertilizer input and improved varieties as well as shifting sowing date. The yield is the production per unit area, which means productivity.
  2. In the case of maize and soybean, even with a 1.8°C rise in global mean temperature in the end of this century from the industrial levels , the increase in global mean yield was suppressed, and it is found that the higher the temperature rise, the lower the yield increase in the future. In case of wheat and rice, although yields of these crops started to stagnate when the temperature rise at the end of this century exceededs 3.2°C, their yield growth was not much influence on the global mean basis if the temperature rise is less than 3.2 °C. However, rice and wheat yields in low latitudes aree sometimes adversely affected.
  3. Based on the above outlook, it is necessary to further diffusing the advanced technology currently available (fertilization management and use of existing high yielding varieties) to farmers in developing countries to maintain yield increase under climate change. In addition, it was suggested that there is a need to accelerate the development and diffusion of more aggressive adaptation technology, such as high-temperature resistant varieties and irrigation and drainage facilities.
  4. The research result was published in the international scientific journal "Scientific Reports" dated August 10, 2017.

For Inquiries

Dr. Tomonari WATANABE
Institute of Agro-Environmental Sciences,NARO

Dr. Toshichika IIZUMI
Senior Researcher
Climate Impact Assessment Unit

Public Relations:
Dr. Noriko OURA
TEL: 029-838-8191


Toshichika Iizumi, Jun Furuya, Zhihong Shen, Wonsik Kim, Masashi Okada, Shinichiro Fujimori, Tomoko Hasegawa and Motoki Nishimori (2017) Responses of crop yield growth to global temperature and socioeconomic changes, Scientific Reports, doi:10.1038/s41598-017-08214-4 .

Reference information

Outlook of global mean yields of major crops. Black line shows the global mean yield over the past 50 years (1961 - 2010) reproduced by the yield model. Blue to green lines indicate crop yield estimated under each emission scenario. Both are scaled so that average value in 2001-2010 to be 1.0. Temperature rise represents global mean surface warming at the end of this century (2091 - 2100) which is projected under each emission scenario. Both the recalculated and estimated yields were averaged every 10 years and shown as a line graph.