As summer temperatures are sometimes reaching unprecedented levels in the US, the future of sweet corn might be uncertain. According to New University of Illinois research, sweet corn yields drop significantly with extreme heat during flowering, especially in rainfed fields in the Midwest. And climate projections don’t just predict a handful of hot days going forward. The US Global Change Research Program predicts 20 to 30 more days over 90 F by mid-century across much of the US.
Daljeet Dhaliwal, former graduate research assistant and lead author on the study published in Scientific Reports: “The reality is that producing sweet corn, one of the most popular vegetable crops in the US, will be more difficult in the future. We need to develop new approaches and technologies to help crops adapt to climate change.”
Dhaliwal worked with Marty Williams, USDA-ARS ecologist and affiliate professor in the Department of Crop Sciences at Illinois, to document yield response of sweet corn to growing season temperature and precipitation over a 27-year period. Williams: “Our analysis reveals that small temperature changes have a greater influence on crop yield compared to small precipitation changes for both rainfed and irrigated fields in the Midwest and Northwest, but rainfed production shows greater sensitivities."