Study Suggest Global Warming Could Impact Rice Yields

June 29, 2004 -- Posted at 4:48 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO -- The summer hit movie The Day After Tomorrow gave movie goers a fictional look at the cataclysmic effects of abrupt global warming. However, research does indicate that rising temperatures may intensify storms, cause flooding and other severe weather. But does it have an effect on crops?

For folks here in Region 8, rice is an important crop, and for 2 billion people in the world, it makes up 40% of their daily calories. So when a new report published in an issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that global warming could have a negative impact on rice yield, things get serious.

Dean of ASU Agriculture, Dr. Greg Phillips said, "Depending on how you take the measurements and whose taking the measurements you can get different kinds of results. So whether we are experiencing global warming or not is very controversial."
"The problem is some of these projects are assumptions made out over the long term and we don't really know all the answers. Certainly there's been changes somewhat in the environment, but again, from the crop yield standpoint, we're having some of the best yields we've had in history," said Steve Culp, Craighead County Extension Agent.
Arkansas is one of the leading states in rice production, but Dean Phillips says there's no evidence of global warming here, yet.
"It would take many years at a much more rapid increase in the release of green house gasses to see the kind of doomsday scenarios that people are playing on. but it is a real environmental concern," said Phillips.
Burning rice fields releases methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and actually contributes to global warning.
"One estimate that I've read is that rice, world wide, may contribute as much as 14% of the total methane gas, which is second only to carbon dioxide in terms of greenhouse gasses that trap the heat," said Phillips.
But global warming doesn't seem to have hit Region 8 yet.
"It looks real good, rice, cotton, soybeans. It looks like we've got an excellent crop right now," said Culp.
Global warming is thought to be the result of heat trapped by industrial and other chemicals in the atmosphere, which increase the Earth's temperature.