As climate heats up, rising rainfall averages hide crop-killing droughts

Research performed in the Ethiopian highlands shows that even in years with above average rainfall, crops can be severely reduced by drought early in the growing season, when seeds must sprout and get established.

A study by University of Wisconsin–Madison scientists Michael Eggen and Mutlu Ozdogan, now online at Environmental Research Letters, looked at yields of sorghum, a crop related to corn that is prized for its drought resistance.

The study showed a paradoxical result: Even though climate change “will bring generally warmer and wetter seasons to the study area,” the report said, droughts early in the growing season “will likely have negative impacts on sorghum yield.”

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