Increasing risks of crop failure and water scarcity in global breadbaskets by 2030

Monica Caparas, Zachary Zobel, Andrea D.A. Castanho, Christopher R. Schwalm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


As the greatest water user in the world, the agricultural sector is vulnerable to changes in climate and water resource availability. Understanding the impact of these changes on crop yield is critical in order to achieve and maintain global food security. We analyze output from an ensemble of Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project models to project the probability of rice, soybean, maize, and wheat yield failures across global and national breadbaskets through mid-century. The probability of crop yield failures is projected to be as much as 4.5 times higher by 2030 and up to 25 times higher by 2050 across global breadbaskets. Crop failures are projected to be more likely when effects of CO2 fertilization are ignored. We utilize the open-source Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas to create a Water Scarcity Index composed of ten hydrological variables. The index reveals high water scarcity across crop breadbaskets in India, China, and the United States. If the ability to irrigate breadbaskets was eliminated due to water scarcity, the likelihood of crop failures would increase. Shifts in breadbaskets may cross national borders as crop yields will increase in Canada and decrease in the US as a response to a changing climate. Our analysis highlights top producing agricultural regions that have historically provided the global food system with large quantities of one or more major crops, but will face challenges in continuing to do so due to climate change and growing water scarcity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104013
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • AgMIP
  • agricultural breadbaskets
  • climate risk
  • crop failure
  • crop yields
  • water scarcity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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