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Study predicts significant future decline in potato yields on Prince Edward Island due to climate change

A scientific study led by researchers at the University of Prince Edward Island’s Canadian Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation, Faculty of Sustainable Design Engineering, and the Department of Agriculture and Land of the Govt of Prince Edward Island reveals a concerning forecast for the future of potato farming in Prince Edward Island (PEI), one of Canada’s foremost potato-producing regions.

The study, published in the journal Foods, uses advanced climate modeling to predict the impacts of global warming on potato yields in PEI, presenting a stark warning about the potential decline in one of the province’s key agricultural outputs.

The paper, titled “Assessing Future Climate Change Impacts on Potato Yields — A Case Study for Prince Edward Island, Canada,” reveals that the potato industry in PEI could see dramatic reductions in crop yields by the end of the century due to climate change.

Researcher Xiuquan Wang and a team of experts including Toyin Adekanmbi, Sana Basheer, Rana Ali Nawaz, Tianze Pang, Yulin Hu, and Suqi Liu utilized the Decision Support System for Agrotechnology Transfer (DSSAT) to simulate future scenarios for the Island based on the latest IPCC climate models.

Predictions of a Bleak Future

The study’s findings reveal a potential for substantial decline in potato yields under various climate change scenarios. Even under low-emission scenarios, yields could decrease by 6-10%, while high-emission scenarios project a staggering decline of 48-60% by the 2070s and a potential 80% reduction by the 2090s.

These alarming figures highlight the potential future vulnerability of PEI’s potato industry, a cornerstone of the island’s economy and a major contributor to Canada’s agricultural sector.

The Role of Climate Variables

The study underscores the role of changing climate conditions, particularly temperature increases and erratic precipitation patterns, which are pivotal in influencing potato growth. As PEI primarily relies on rainfed agricultural systems, the decreased precipitation levels play a significant role in the yield reductions, despite some offsetting effects from higher CO2 concentrations.

The researchers pointed out that the correlation between these factors and potato yields is stark, indicating a critical need for adaptation strategies.

Call for Adaptation and Sustainable Practices

The study emphasizes the urgent need for developing and implementing effective climate adaptation measures to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on agriculture. These measures include adjusting farming practices, such as optimizing planting dates and crop varieties, and introducing supplemental irrigation systems to cope with decreasing rainfall.

The results provide a robust basis for policymakers and farmers to start formulating strategies that will enhance the resilience of potato production against climate variability in the future.

A Comparative Analysis with Global Trends

Interestingly, the study also compares its findings with other global research, which shows varying impacts of climate change on potato yields in different regions. For instance, increased yields are projected in some northern regions of the United States, contrasting sharply with the declines expected in PEI.

This comprehensive analysis not only projects the local impacts of global climate change but also sets the stage for further studies that could explore more detailed adaptation strategies to sustain potato yields. As PEI confronts these challenges, the insights from this and similar research studies should be noted since it could be instrumental in steering the province towards a more sustainable agricultural future, ensuring food security in the face of looming climate threats in future.

Author: Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today
Source: Assessing Future Climate Change Impacts on Potato Yields — A Case Study for Prince Edward Island, Canada
Foods 2023, 12(6), 1176
Cover image: Credit Prince Edward Island Potato Board

Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse

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