Crop storage becomes more difficult as climate heats up

Some 25% of potato chips for the US get their start in Michigan. One of the main reasons why the state produces more chipping potatoes than any other is that there, the reliably cool air during September harvest and late spring has been ideal for crop storage.

But with temperatures edging higher, Brian Sackett -whose family has farmed potatoes for generations- had to buy several small refrigeration units for his sprawling warehouses. Last year, he paid $125,000 for a bigger one.

"Our good, fresh, cool air is getting less all the time, it seems like," he told

This illustrates a little-noticed hazard that climate change is posing for agriculture in much of the world. Once harvested, crops not immediately consumed or processed are stored, sometimes for months. The warming climate is making that job harder and costlier.

The annual period with outdoor air cool enough to store potatoes in Michigan's primary production area likely will shrink by up to 17 days by mid-century and up to a month by the late 2100s, according to an analysis by Julie Winkler, a Michigan State University geography and climate scientist.

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