A recent study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences and funded by the Wellcome Trust as part of the Our Planet, Our Health programme has addressed a gap in the literature surrounding future impacts of rapid environmental change on vegetable and legume yields.
Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine carried out a meta-analysis of 174 papers published between 1974 and 2016, which has brought to the fore the extent to which factors such as temperature and water availability will decrease vegetable yields significantly worldwide if we do not change our current habits.
This systematic review has been carried out by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to assess the consequences of environmental change on vegetable and legume yield and quality around the globe. This has looked at research in papers conducted in 40 countries. The review has been done in part to address the current gap in research, as food security-driven studies have been conducted on cereals and grains, but fewer analyses have been conducted on effects on vegetables and legumes.
A reduction of yield and quality of vegetables and legumes could have substantial effects on their affordability, as well as cause significant detriment to population health worldwide.
The researchers have looked at factors such as changing temperatures and water availability, and is thought that if no drastic action is taken to minimise the detriment which could be caused by these changes, vegetable crop yield would reduce by around 35%, and legumes by 9%. Increased air temperatures in hot regions such as Africa and Southern Europe could reduce vegetable yields by 31%.
This research has been regarded as a “wake-up call”, and it highlights the importance of changes in agricultural practices and prioritisation of access to a wider range of crop types to mitigate the nefarious effects of climate change and environmental shifts. This is said to be key to tackling the mounting environmental impact on not only staple crops, but also non-staple vegetable and legumes that constitute key elements of a healthy, varied diet.