US Corn Yields Sensitive to Drought

July 2, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. dramatically [druh-mat-ik-lee] (adv.) – in an extreme and sudden manner
Example: The price of rice has increased dramatically over the recent years.

2. drought [drout] (n.) – a long period when there is very little or no rain at all
Example: Almost all the crops died because of the recent drought.

3. keep track [keep trak] (idiom) – to be fully aware or informed
Example: One must keep track of his expenses to avoid overspending.

4. yield [yeeld] (n.) – the amount of crop harvested
Example: Irrigated fields often have more corn yield.

5. worsen [WUR-suh n] (v.) – to become more serious (in a negative way)
Example: The water shortage may worsen if it doesn’t rain soon.


Read the text below.
Genetically modified corn in the United States is starting to become more sensitive to drought, study says.

David Lobell, an associate professor at Stanford University, led the research team that examined and determined which conditions are essential to corn production. The data came from over a million crop insurance records from 1995 to 2012. The team also kept track on how farmers deal with the food crops during specific conditions.

Over the past decades, the corn yield in Midwestern US has dramatically increased as commercialized corn became genetically modified. This development allowed farmers to plant the crops closely together. With this, more corn can be planted, which then results in an increased yield.

However, the study, which was published in the journal Science, revealed that genetically modified corn in the US have become more susceptible to drought. The research found that the dry season or the lack of water supply has resulted in a significant decrease in corn yields. Lobell stressed that if corn becomes more sensitive to drought, crops could lose 15% to 30% of their yields in less than 50 years.

Corn production in the US depends on natural rainfall rather than irrigation. But as climate change worsens, a more extreme hot and dry season is expected to come. If this happens, corn fields may then experience a severe water shortage.

The study suggests that farmers change the way corn is planted in order to solve this problem. Another solution is to prevent global warming from worsening, which can be achieved by reducing carbon emissions.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         How is your country affected by drought?
·         Do you think global warming and climate change will worsen in the near future? Why or why not?

Discussion B

·         What are your views on genetically modified food crops?
·         How does your country address climate change?

July 2, 2014