Hotter climate means hungrier insects will munch millions more tonnes of crops

LONDON: A warming planet will see larger swarms of hungrier insects chomp through millions more tonnes of rice, maize and wheat crops globally by 2050, even if countries meet ambitious climate goals to curb carbon emissions, scientists said on Thursday.
For every one degree Celsius rise in average temperatures, insects will consume an extra 2.5 per cent of the world’s rice, maize and wheat crops, researchers said. That means a 2 degrees Celsius rise in surface temperature would see a total loss of 213 million tonnes of these staple crops — up from 166 million tonnes today — according to the study published in the journal Science.
“Temperate regions are currently cooler than what’s optimal for most insects. But if temperatures rise, these insect populations will grow faster,” said co-author Scott Merrill, a researcher at the University of Vermont. “They will also need to eat more, because rising temperatures also increase insect metabolism. Together, that’s not good for crops.”
Researchers said higher temperatures would see food prices rise, with the poor most affected. Globally, one in nine people already lack enough food, and the world’s population is expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050, the UN says. Most of the world relies on maize, rice or wheat, and demand for these crops is projected to increase by a third by 2050, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
The study concluded that Europe — the world’s most productive wheat-growing region — could see up to 16 million tonnes of wheat lost to crop-chomping pests by 2050. The US, the world’s largest maize producer, is projected to see its maize-loss rise 40 per cent — or by about 20 million tonnes each year. Insects are also predicted to eat about 27 million tonnes of rice annually in China, where a third of all rice is produced. — AFP