The future of one of Britain’s favorite staples could be at risk as climate change threatens areas for growing potatoes, as well as affecting other fruit and vegetables, scientists from the University of Leeds said.
Climate change is making the kind of heatwaves that hurt U.K. crops last year more likely, according to Piers Forster and Kate Sambrook of the university’s Priestley International Centre for Climate. Under a high emissions scenario, maximum summer temperatures could be up to 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer by the 2050s, their projections based on recent Met Office data show.
Southern England, where much of the country’s fruit and vegetables are grown, would experience the largest changes. That could threaten production of potatoes, known for being a rain-thirsty crop. Last summer’s heat and drought caused potato prices to triple in the U.K., forcing fish and chip shops to raise prices.
The research was published in a report by a campaign group, the Climate Coalition, which said that the area of land well-suited for growing potatoes could shrink 74 percent by the 2050s due to climate change.
“We’re seeing the trend of climate change now in the late frost we had last year and the extreme heatwave,” Sambrook said by phone, adding that both had impacted potato crops.
It’s not just potatoes that are at risk. U.K. carrot, apple and onion yields have also been impacted in recent years by warmer-than-average temperatures, according to the report. More than half of U.K. farms say they have been affected by a severe weather event in the past 10 years.