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Historical effects of temperature and precipitation on California crop yields

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For the 1980–2003 period, we analyzed the relationship between crop yield and three climatic variables (minimum temperature, maximum temperature, and precipitation) for 12 major Californian crops: wine grapes, lettuce, almonds, strawberries, table grapes, hay, oranges, cotton, tomatoes, walnuts, avocados, and pistachios. The months and climatic variables of greatest importance to each crop were used to develop regressions relating yield to climatic conditions. For most crops, fairly simple equations using only 2–3 variables explained more than two-thirds of observed yield variance. The types of variables and months identified suggest that relatively poorly understood processes such as crop infection, pollination, and dormancy may be important mechanisms by which climate influences crop yield. Recent climatic trends have had mixed effects on crop yields, with orange and walnut yields aided, avocado yields hurt, and most crops little affected by recent climatic trends. Yield-climate relationships can provide a foundation for forecasting crop production within a year and for projecting the impact of future climate changes.

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Lobell, D.B., Cahill, K.N. & Field, C.B. Historical effects of temperature and precipitation on California crop yields. Climatic Change 81, 187–203 (2007).

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