Monday, 5 March 2012

Modelling the effects of climate change on maize crops

I recently had to create a model using the software package STELLA. I decided to create a model which could predict the effects of climate change on maize production in sub-Saharan Africa. Maize is a fundamental crop in sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for 25% of the continent's staple food consumption and providing livelihoods. Studies have previously shown that maize growth is severely limited by high temperatures and low rainfall.

It is predicted that temperature will rise by 3°C and rainfall could decrease by up to 40% in Africa by 2050. Inputting these climatic changes into my model resulted in a 23% fall in the yield, when compared to optimum conditions.

A model such as this could be used to develop evidence-based policy in the management of agriculture. It would enable governments, charities and international organisations to foresee the effects of climate change on crop production, and therefore put the appropriate management strategies in place to offset the consequences. 

I found this project very interesting, and it enlightened me with regards to how useful modelling can be in research. I imagine as modelling software and techniques improve, statistical modelling will become a major aspect of scientific research.